Bees are an essential species for our survival and beekeeping is become a widespread trend to keep them alive. There are 6 overarching myths about bees that we must be aware if we truly want to save them.
If you were to have a conversation with someone about bees, there are two topics that will come out immediately: the story of the time you got stung by a bee, and how much you like honey. This, with many other statements, has created a long list of myths about bees.
If you are passionate about bees, most likely you would also be aware of bees Colony Collapse Disorder and the important role bees play in our lives. In fact, many people have become bees protectors or supporters of the work of beekeepers. But to protect the bees, we first must be aware of how many there are: about 400,000 species of bees on Earth.
Bees Myth 1: all bees are honey bees or bumblebees
Truth is that most researches are done on honey bees and bumblebees. However, these are just one of the hundreds of thousands of species, which are really different biologically than other bees.
For example, there is buzz pollination: a bee lands on a flower and vibrates it a certain frequency causing it to release more pollen. Honey bees don’t know how to buzz pollinate – they just don’t have that ability, whereas a lot of native bees in the US do!
There are less than 10 species of honey bees and less than 450 species of a stingless honey bee.
Bees Myth 2: all bees make honey
There are other types of bees that pollinate and not necessarily produce honey
Also, honey bees are originally from Europe, not the United States. Instead, Mason bees are native to the US and many efforts of this big country are based on keeping honey bees.
What most people don’t know is that Mason bees can be really important pollinators of many of our orchard crops. In fact, the pollination that would take a hundred honey bees to accomplish can be done in many orchards by only two Mason bees. This makes them very efficient pollinators.
Bumble bees, another approximately 260 species, may have a teaspoon or two of honey in their nests, which is not enough for commercial use and so isn’t worth harvesting. By all this means that if we look at the larger picture, less than five per cent of bee species make honey.
Bees Myth 3: all bees look black and yellow
Bees are beyond black and yellow. Many America’s native bees have stunning colours featuring blue or green colours, instead of striped black and yellow. Their incredible diversity goes largely unrecognised.
As much as we have so many different shapes and sizes of flowers, we also can find the variety in the bees. The reason is that bees and flowers have co-evolved, often forming very specific and mutually beneficial relationships: a certain lineage of flower might try to keep out every type of bee but one, offering them a guaranteed source of food in exchange for the pollination they provide.
So yes, you can find purple, green, golden bees. Most likely you will not see them, unless you look for them!
Bees Myth 4: all bees stay in a colony
Not all bees live in a complex social society. There are solitary bees too, in fact, most of them are solitary: 90% of bees species are not very social at all.
The social interactions of most bees are limited to mating and laying eggs. Solitary bees do not produce honey, do not have a queen and do not live in hives.
Bees Myth 5: all bees live in hives
Only the social bees live in a hive, and since most bee species are solitary, most bees don’t live in hives. They are living in individual nests tunnelled in the soil or in tree trunks.
Roughly 70% are called mining bees and nest in underground burrows, hollow plant stems or decaying timber. Some make their nests out of mud or resin and place their brood cells on hard surfaces.
For the ground-nesting bees, it’s known that females will mound the loose soil around her nest entrance, then provision her home with pollen and nectar for her offspring. Despite their solitary nature, it’s not unusual to find dozens of ground bee nests in one area if conditions are suitable for nesting. Males may fly over the burrows, patrolling for potential mates.
Myth 6: all bees love lavender and cloves
Bees also have different dietary preferences. We have squash bees, which have dietary preference for squash flowers and are great pollinators for zucchinis, cucumbers and pumpkins. By saying this, if we only focus on the needs of honey bees and plant fields of lavender and lover, we may be doing very little for these native bees that have different preferences.
We underestimate bee diversity and most often we don’t know what kind of bugs are in our yard. This misunderstanding can lead to misguided efforts to save bees.
All bees play an important role in many of our agricultural systems. The myth of saving the black and yellow honey bees could originate in an increase of artificial honey bees population that can lead to competition between honey bees and native bees and negatively impact the native bee populations.
As you may have heard Morgan Freeman is now an official beekeeper, converting his 124-Acre ranch into a giant honeybee sanctuary to save the bees. He planted cloves, lavender and magnolia. It’s great people making efforts to save the bees, but awareness is key and we must understand that all bees play an important role in our environment and lives.
If you want to help save the bees, the first step is to learn about bees – all of the bees.
Do you like bees as much as we do? Is there any other myth about bees we should know about? Share it with us!