The birds and the bees
I don’t profess to be an expert on any subject, but having spent the last 13-odd years (emphasis on odd) at Peace River Wildlife Center, I do know a little bit about a lot of things. Especially birds. I think it is fair to say that I know, or have at least been acquainted with, many different species of birds. And now I have seen a side of bees that I never expected.
B. Keith Councell stopped in recently to introduce himself. He runs a bee removal service and specializes in live collection and other bee-related activities. He was in our neck of the woods, having just removed a hive locally. He wanted to let us know he is available for humane, live removal of bees. He then mentioned that fledgling songbirds, raccoons, and opossums like to eat the bee larvae in honeycombs. Since we try to offer as much natural food as possible to our rehabilitating, releasable animals, we were thrilled to try out this new (to us) food source.
Bee Keith (love that name!) brought in a bucketful of honeycomb and proceeded to introduce us to some of the lingering inhabitants. He pointed out the newly emerging bees, and explained that these babies will not attempt to sting unless injured. And while some of the kiddos do have stingers, they are still soft enough that they can do little damage in any event. Then he showed us a drone. He pointed out that the drone does not have a stinger by picking him up and turning him over to show us the bees underbelly.
It looked to me like the bee was indeed trying to shoot venom at his handler. When I asked about that, Bee Keith assured me the drone was not trying to attack him. Quite the contrary. The drone smelled his queen on Keith, and was enamoured at the prospect of being handled. (Did I state that delicately enough? I know this is a family-friendly site.)
Why do a live bee removal when a hive is found on your property? Between 2006 and 2013 more than 10 million beehives were lost, almost twice the normal rate of attrition before that time. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) was indicated in many of those losses. While there are many theories about the causative nature of CCD from insecticides to climate change to parasites the fact remains that we rely heavily on these little workers for our own food.
Agriculture is a multibillion-dollar industry in Florida, and bees are responsible for the pollination of a third of all crops in the US. Without bees, farmers would have a hard time getting food to our tables. Luckily, the number of bees seems to be on the slight increase lately, but now is not the time to become complacent. You can help in your own yard by growing native plants and avoiding insecticides and pesticides. If you have an unwanted hive in or near your home, call a professional that specializes in live removal, like Councell Farms (www.swbees.com) .
by- Robin Jenkins, DVM