As landscapers, it’s not uncommon to freak out when we come across a beehive while clearing brush, or receive a call about swarming bees from an anxious customer. The media loved the Africanized bee scare of the ’70s and Hollywood capitalized on it in The Swarm a 1978 horror film about the killer bee invasion of Texas. Fear of bees even has a name—Apiphobia. So why, with so much fear of bees, does Jenkins Landscape try so hard to save them?
The bee population is in decline. Since around 2006, bee decline in the U.S. hovers around 30% every winter season. Since 1945, domesticated honeybees have declined over 55%. Habitat loss, pesticides, and other agricultural practices are responsible. Bees work hard to pollinate plants and flowers, so the decline has had a negative effect on food sources. In fact, one out of every three bites of the food we eat depends on bees and other pollinators.
Humans must choose to protect bees. When a Jenkins crew runs across a hive, or if called out to remove a hive, we call a beekeeper.
The lifecycle of each bee is short, yet purposeful. Bees work together as a colony to build a hive in which the cycle of birth, life and death are at the core of their existence. There are three types of bees: the male is a drone; females are worker bees, and only one bee is the Queen. The Queen Bee larva is fed Royal Jelly, a creamy goop with a high sugar content. Once an adult, she mates with one male drone, gathering millions of sperm. It’s no wonder that after mating, the male promptly dies.
A young worker bee’s first job is housekeeper, constantly cleaning the cells, nursing the larva, producing honey, storing pollen, and building and repairing the cells and building honey comb. Twenty days later they move up to the exhausting job of forager, finding and bringing back to the hive water for drinking, pollen and nectar as food and to make honey, and resin from tree buds to seal the hive. After about 500 miles of flight, they are worn out and die.
While foraging, the bees do a “waggle dance” to let other worker bees know where the best nectar is located. It could be your garden!
The “swarming” that alarms so many of us happens when the bee colony outgrows its home. The queen and 30-60% of the hive leave to seek a new home. Before heading out, they fatten up for the journey to a point that they can’t sting to protect themselves. At this point, they are quite vulnerable to predators, and the least likely to sting. The best approach is to leave them alone, but it’s also the best time for a beekeeper to “catch” them.
The hive that was abandoned is now the scene of some very peculiar goings on. A new Queen emerges and goes from queen cell to queen cell, stinging her sisters to death. It’s the way of the bees, giving both the old and new hives the best opportunity to survive.
We want to save the bees because your plants and flowers depend on the bees for pollination. Without bees, wasps and other pollinators, your landscape trees, bushes, plants and flowers will be unable to transfer male and female plant parts. Can you do it yourself? Yep. Spoiler alert: you will need a paintbrush.
Some people, especially children, can be allergic to bee venom and a single sting could trigger a serious immune system reaction. We take this seriously and never recommend anything that could cause harm to a human.
Want to help feed the bees? Plant Sugar Palms, Firebush, Spanish Needle, PowderPuff, Loquat, and African Blue Basil. And talk with us before using any pesticides on your landscape.
Need a hive relocated or removed? Please call us. We have great recommendations for beekeepers and may be able to make relocation arrangements for you.