I am very allergic to them. In one of my very first memories, I stepped on a dead bee. I was three or four at the time, and my parents had a bunch of friends over for a party. I spent the evening in the middle of the kitchen counter being doted on, while my foot soaked in an orange baby bathtub. I have been stung many times over the years and there has always been massive swelling, though I am wary of situations where I might run into wasps or hornets, and a keep a vast distance between myself and yellow jackets, I retain true love for the honeybee.
My grandfather raised honeybees. He had several hives on his farm. The bees were kept right next to the orchard, where my grandfather had around twenty fruit trees growing. I learned to respect the bees by being around my grandfather. Honeybees are not in the least aggressive, and normally people only get stung by them if they accidentally step on them. I have seen my grandfather work with the slats of honeycomb, and watched the honey flow as it is spun out of the combs. It is all pretty fascinating.
Even though I normally only spent random weekends on my grandfathers farm, I actually happened to be there one time when he had a hive unexpectedly split. This happens when a hive becomes too cramped. A second queen is born and a mass of drones leaves the hive with her to find a new home. These bees had settled on a branch of one of the fruit trees in the orchard. They appeared as a large black mass, all of the drones surrounding the queen in the center of the group to protect her. I got to watch as my grandfather geared up, and gassed the bees into a better mood before urging them into a new hive. It was amazing, and I was humbled by his respect for the awesome insects.
My grandfather lost his bees to a highly invasive mite almost ten years ago now, and it makes me very sad. He was heartbroken as I remember. The honeybee is under attack, and it is a very scary thing. It is not the sort of news that a lot of people pay attention to, but it is much more important than many people think. There is much speculation as to why this is happening, and research is being done to try and find a solution to this problem. Little things that all of us can do? For starters, don’t swat at bees. Like I said, unless their hive is being threatened, honeybees are really not aggressive. They are nothing like the angry yellow jacket. It is also important that we teach our kids to respect these guys. When I was in elementary school, we sang a song about bees, and I still remember the lyrics.
Of course, there will be enormous ecological repercussions if we don’t find a way to help save these guys. Organic gardening and buying food from local growers are both good practices that can help out. Here is a neat website with lots of information on the subject: