by Jason Johnson
The next bug in our line-up of super hero insects is the humble, yet complex bee. While bees don’t do much in way of ridding your garden of bothersome pests, you will soon understand why bees definitely deserve a mention on the list of beneficial insects.
Aside from the fact that they produce delicious honey for my tea in the morning, bees actually play a far more important role in our human lives. Their role in our lives is so important, that some scientists actually believe that humans may cease to exist without bees. Most superhero movies usually involve some guy in tights saving mankind, but the bee can actually lay claim to that fact.
Surprisingly, I can think a super hero based on bees, spiders, toads and ticks, but not the kind of creature that ensures that we continue to have ready sources of food. Well done, human kind! You don’t deserve the bee’s kindness. Anyway, enough about that; this is my tribute to the bee.
Bees are actually, for lack of a better word, awesome. Aside from their flying ability and vicious reputation, bees are equipped with a host of other abilities that would make for a fantastic super hero.
One of their abilities is interpretive dance. Now, I’ll admit that dance won’t help the bee when it’s out there saving the world, but it’s still pretty cool. Bees use a bunch of complex moves to communicate with one another. This language of dance can be used to signal danger, a new source of food or a new place to set up camp. This language is in fact, so detailed that bees can actually communicate distance estimates and they have been known to be very accurate.
If their complex language didn’t tell you that bees are highly intelligent, then the fact that bees can actually count should leave you impressed. Scientists have proven that bees are actually able to count up until four. Obviously, this is not as impressive your one-year-old being able to count to ten after watching Open Sesame on repeat for days, but be mindful of the fact that we’re talking about an insect here.
Still on the topic of intelligence, bees have been proven to display above average emotional capability. After being taunted by scientists, some bees have actually displayed signs of depression. I think the horizontal stripes just made the particular bee feel fat that day and the scientist wasn’t helping with his or her constant prodding.
Bees are also extremely sensitive to electricity – so much so, that they are able to tell by the amount of static in the air that a thunderstorm is brewing. I’m not particularly impressed by this as I have my own tell. My hair normally turns into a ball of fuzz and I end up looking like Barbara Streisand in Yentl. No big deal. Bees are also able to carry more than their own body weight in pollen, while in flight so we can add that super strength to their list of talents as well. Ounce for ounce, bees are stronger than ants, but we were not comparing.
While they have all of these breath-taking super powers, bees are not invincible. Bees are preyed upon regularly by larger creatures such as lizards and frogs. Spiders also have no problem turning a bee into an insect smoothie once they’ve been caught in a web.
Unlike most animals who avoid beehives at all costs, giant hornets seek out hives and destroy them for sport. The bees are rendered defenseless against these monsters as their stingers are too short to pierce the hornet’s tough exoskeleton.
The most aggressive opponent bees are facing today is barely visible with the naked eye. The varroa mite is a parasitic mite that feasts on the blood of honeybees. These mites have devastated bee colonies around the world and more specifically, the Unites States in recent times.
Scientists are frantically trying to get the mite problem under control because if it’s allowed to spread any more, it can have an even more devastating effect on the species and a far more dire impact on humankind.
While superstition speaks of bees bringing good fortune when they fly into ones home, some people are not too comfortable with a creature with a potentially fatal sting flying around in their homes. Because it is illegal in many countries to kill bees or to apply any pest control measures to kill bees, the best alternative would have to be bee deterrents.
Bee deterrents are actually quite easy to find and you may have some in your home at this very moment. Things such as cucumber peels and cinnamon drive bees crazy. Simply place these items on your windowsill to deter bees from entering your home.
Another cool trick is to make your own cinnamon scented candle. Simply melt a few candles down in an old pot or coffee can. Once you’ve done this, add a generous helping of ground cinnamon to the wax and leave the mixture on the heat for a minute or two. Place in the mould and wait for it to set.
Bees are attracted to sweet smelling fragrances, so avoid using scented air fresheners if you are having a problem with bees. Because of their love of sweet fragrances, bees absolutely hate the smell of garlic. Leave some crushed garlic in a dish on your window and you won’t have to worry about bees or vampires entering your home.
Bees are wonderfully complex creatures. Their language, they lifestyle and their work ethic are just a few of the things that I admire. Always remember that killing even one bee can have an almost instant impact on the eco system. They are also territorial and extremely volatile so it is best to steer clear of them and leave them to tend to their business of saving the world – one flower at a time.