Recently I learned about "friendly bees" called Mason Bees. Unlike their similar looking cousin the Honey Bee, Mason Bees don't make honey or wax. Mason bees are solitary. They don't have a hive, or a queen, and they don't build their own homes like other bees do. Instead, they seek out a perfect place. They make their homes in hollow tubular things, like dried reeds, abandoned wood boring bee's holes, and cracks in foundations. The females lay eggs in the hollow tubes in nests they've made of chewed up food, mud, and pollen. Once they've laid their eggs, they cap the end of the tube and the egg begins to grow. When it reaches the Larval state, the larvae makes itself a cocoon and grows through the fall and winter. The males are the first to hatch come spring, followed soon by the females, to begin the process all over again, finding a tube, pollinating the flowers, making nests, laying eggs, and capping the tube. While they don't make honey, which I love by the way, they pollinate our trees and gardens.
One of the things that makes Mason bees, specifically the Blue Orchard and Hornfaced bees, so special, is that they aren't aggressive stingers. When you swat at a honey bee and tick it off, it'll chase you down and gladly give up its life to avenge their anger. Fun fact about honey bees; they are #1 on the list for deaths in the U.S. caused by insect or animal. The only time a Mason Bee will sting is if it's squeezed or stepped on. You can guess what I'm thinking, right? Don't step on it, no need for your EpiPen! The opportunity to grow a healthy garden, have delicious apples and cherries from my trees, and not worry highly about a potentially deadly sting, is a pretty good way of life for me. Beause of that, I hereby put down the shoe and stop the smooshing.
My brother-in-law is already ahead of the game with the bee action campaign without really knowing of the bee action campaign. Jeremiah has a "bee box" nestled in the corner of his wood pile. He has told me a few times that he has definitely noticed the change by adding the bees this year. He doesn't have honey bees in his area, and his bumblebees are becoming scarce.
I'm hoping that these mason bees with all their magical powers will help to raise the bee numbers in the country, and also raise awareness for the need for bees. But for that to happen we need your help! You can get your own BeeAction kit, or Bee'n'Bee Houses through "Friends of the Earth U.S." The kit contains a "pesticide free zone" aluminum yard sign, organic sunflower seeds, along with materials to maintain the houses in an effort to get people more involved in Bee conservation.
Bees are dying off at staggering rates, mostly due to Neonic pesticides, which are toxic to bees, as well as other pollinators. Neonic Pesticides (Neonicotinoid) are a nicotine like neuro-active insecticide and pesticide. While Neonic pesticides are supposed to be "less toxic" to humans and most animals, they are a death sentence for our pollinators. Neonic pesticides are coated on the outsides of seeds and the fresh shoots of young crops, also causing potential harm to the earthworms and grubs that inhabit the ground. It started being used around 2001 in Canada on potatoes, and its use has grown blanketing most of Ontario, where only a small percentage actually need it. Neonic pesticides accounted for approximately three billion dollars of revenue, making up just about 40 percent of the global pesticide market in 2011. This widespread blanket usage, is causing bee keepers and bee farmers to lose their colonies.
I can't stress enough just how important bees are to the global food growth industry! Without bees, we have no food. Without food, we have no future. Our kids need US to be proactive now in taking care of bees, so we can secure the future of our crops, to secure the future of our children. The only way I can see us doing so, is by getting the U.S. EPA to suspend the use of the Neonic pesticides that are causing a genocide of bees. Whilst failing to effectively articulate the magnitude of the issue, by releasing their May 2015 issue of the National Pollinator Health Strategy, the Obama administration did draw attention to over four million petitioners that signed petitions to call out the Obama administration to protect our pollinators. The Pennsylvania State University's Gary Felton, professor and head of the Department of Entomology, in the College of Agricultural Science said, "Pennsylvania, in particular, has been hit very hard, with a nearly 60 percent loss of honey bee colonies in the past year. This degree of loss is not sustainable. Our new faculty position will focus on improving the overall health of managed and native pollinators, especially in Pennsylvania." in reference to their new faculty position to investigate pollinator health. There are things we can do to bring the pollinators back up! Plant a garden! Plant flowers! Become a bee friendly home, and put a bee box out back.
If you seem to be one of the lucky ones with a bee infestation, you can call on someone like my good friend Eric McCool, of CritterMcCool LLC in South Carolina, who specializes in bee removal, without the use of insecticides or pesticides. He does live extractions, relocating the bees to local bee keepers.
He is able to relocate the bees by finding the queen of the hive, and getting her out. Have you ever heard the term in reference to a female in a leadership position being called the "Queen Bee?" That's exactly what she is. She's the boss, the 'go to' lady. She is the only female in the hive that lays eggs, while all the "worker bees" do her bidding by collecting pollen, making honey and producing wax, which is shown in this photo that CritterMcCool Bee Control has provided for us of one of his extractions. It's important to get the queen out, because she releases pheromones that call all her bees back to her. If you relocate the Queen, you can normally relocate the whole hive with little to no trouble, dramatically reducing the effects on the bee population.
It doesn't take insecticides and smoke screens, poisons and a killing spree to make living harmoniously with bees a possibility. Bees aren't as bad as people make them out to be. For those allergic? You and I should probably appreciate them from a distance. Just tonight, I had a gigantic bee land on me while we were walking into our fishing hole, and I resisted the urge to smoosh. Instead of smooshing the bee, I used gentle pressure and guided him off of me, took photos, and let him be on his way. It felt good knowing that that little (ok, LARGE) bee was going to live to go on and pollinate the farmers field next door. Join ME, a recently reformed bee smoosher, in the fight to save our bees. Stop smashing and start helping.
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Penn State Faculty addition Bee Research
CritterMcCool Bee Control
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