Have you ever been stung by a bee? If you’re afraid of bees and other buzzing insects, it might be because you’ve experienced a sting, or maybe you’ve avoided them but fear an intense reaction. That’s understandable – but there are lots of other interesting things to know and love about bees.
A lot of our fears come from things we don’t fully understand. If you have ever looked at an insect in your garden and wondered about its level of emotion or cognitive ability, you’re not alone.
We know that many animals have feelings or the ability to feel on some level – so what about bees? While honey bees don’t have the same range of feelings as humans, research suggests that honey bees do experience some level of emotions and optimism.
Here are a few reasons to put down your fly swatter and strive to save the bees instead of shoo-ing them away.
Bees have feelings, too
Looking to better understand bees, a team of researchers sought to determine if bees can experience positive emotions. “There’s no reason to believe they can’t feel something,” says Clint J. Perry, cognitive neuroethologist at Queen Mary University. Their research demonstrates that bees can experience a sensation similar to optimism.
The experiment included an environment with two bee-sized doors, one with sweetened water and one with plain water. They recorded how long it took the bees to enter a door. Half of the bees entered the door with sweet water and were rewarded with more sweetened water. Another door was offered, and the bees who received the additional sweet water were more likely to “optimistically” fly to the new door.
While this doesn’t immediately determine a honey bee’s level of emotion, the research does show that they possess a level of feeling that we can relate to. Plus, there is more cognitive work going on inside a bee’s sesame-seed-sized brain than we may have thought.
A sting Isn't as likely as you think
Just because you have an insect that resembles a bee buzzing around doesn’t mean you’ll get stung. First, not all bees can sting and most bees are non-aggressive.
Honey bees often get lumped together with other insects like wasps, which are aggressive and carnivores. Honey bees are omnivores and only female honey bees have stingers. They are unable to sting humans multiple times, however, they can sting other insects more than once. This is because our skin is thick, and once stung, the barbs of their stingers get stuck and without their stinger, they die.
Honey bees ensure our food supply
Next time you fear a nearby bee, consider just how much they work they do for us humans. Did you know that bees are directly responsible for one-third of all the foods we eat? They also pollinate 100 important crops like coffee, mangoes, blueberries, and forage for livestock. This means that bees are an integral part of our agriculture industry and our food security. Without them, we would miss many of our favorite foods and face grave economic and social consequences.
Not only do honey bees pollinate the crops we rely on for global agriculture and our food supply, but they also create their own superfoods.
Of course, you know they produce honey and you may have enjoyed bee pollen on an acai bowl, which is thought to provide energy and have anti-aging abilities. They also make propolis, a glue-like substance made from bee’s saliva and beeswax that is thought to have antiviral properties.
While you may not see them working away often or firsthand, these tiny insects are busy being super-effective pollinators and contributing valuable resources to our ecosystem.
Honey bees need our help
The world’s bee population is rapidly declining as a result of climate change. In 2019, the honey bee population fell by as much as 30 percent.
Honey bees are facing several threats including more severe weather, lack of habitat to pollinate, and a deadly external parasite called the Varroa mite. Becoming more common with rising temperatures, the Varroa destructor causes malformed bees and can be detrimental to a hive.
Luckily, we can help. Start by planting a bee-friendly garden, educate your friends and family on the importance of bees, buy organic and encourage your community to stop using pesticides. You can also use Perpetual Pollen’s Everbee solution in your yard to combat honey bees' biggest threat, the Varroa mite. It’s the first science-back consumer product to help save the bees and launches soon.
We know the thought of getting stung is never fun, but there’s so much more to the honey bee than its ability to sting. If you’re ever feeling wary of a bee buzzing in your garden think about how they’re optimistic, just like us. Give them space, don’t swat at them, and say thanks for all that they do for our planet.