I heard about the accident on Hwy 35, my first thoughts were with the people and the families of the humans in the accident.  My second thoughts were about the bees.  As a hobby beekeeper, I try to understand these special insects more than most. 


It’s necessary that farmers hire beekeepers for pollinating services because there just aren’t enough honey bees around naturally to take care of the mass pollination that need to occur.  It’s not entirely as a result of Colony Collapsing Disorder; it has to do with the changes in farming practices.  If you want a nice bag of apples at your grocery store or pumpkins for carving in October, you need to rely on beekeepers to bring in pollinators.    Honey bees are very effective pollinators for many reasons, but primarily it is because of their fuzzy body and we humans know how to work with them. 


When the accident occurred, I thought of going down to help, but my equipment was up north – and traffic would probably been delayed.  In that chaotic situation, the firefighters were lucky to have their helmets and shields.  Bees instinctively know that natural enemies such as bear, skunks and opossum are most vulnerable in the nose, eyes, and ears.  So when a bee is protecting its hive, it goes for the face.  The bees ‘thump’ the intruder before stinging.  If you are not wearing protective equipment around a disrupted hive, it can be dangerous.


Please know, however, that honey bees are NOT aggressive; in fact if they sting you, they will die.  They sting to protect the hive and the queen inside.  There is one queen per hive and each queen has its own special scent (pheromone).  Every bee in the hive knows this scent and knows to return specifically to that one hive.  When the hive is disrupted, the scent is disbursed and mixed with other scents.  The bees are confused, they want only to get back to their hive and know instinctively that they must protect the queen or all the bees in the hive die.


When the owner of the bees instructed the firefighters to hose the bees down it was akin to a farmer setting fire to his wheat field.  Not good for the bottom line, but that’s what you must do when people’s lives are at stake.  Water confuses bees and limits their ability to fly.  They also easily drown; so no doubt, the owner of the bees lost precious inventory.

I never imagined my first blog about beekeeping would involve death and millions of bees on a highway.  I want to encourage beekeeping!  Beekeeping is a great hobby!  It’s wonderful for your garden and plants; it’s a beautiful way to teach children.  Jacques Cousteau said, “The happiness of the bee and the dolphin is to exist. For man it is to know that and to wonder at it.”