Photo: Bees Up Close

It took some time to make peace with honey bees. I grew up with yards that were more clover than grass, so summer days often involved accidentally stepping on bees in the yard while we played. Along with that we had nasty mud dauber wasps that seem to sting you for no other reason than just being there. Add to that the ground dwelling bees that would sometimes well up when you were mowing the yard and it tended to make you a bit scared of anything that flew and sort of looked like a bee or wasp.

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I have learned over the years, though, how to identify a honey bee (and our somewhat bumbling huge carpenter bees) here in California. I am often showing people the difference between the gentle honey bee and the aggressive food scavenging yellow jacket wasps.  I am always telling people that a honey bee doesn’t want to sting you because stinging means that it will die. Wasps, on the other hand, can (and do) sting multiple times without too much ill effect.

I have walked through clouds of honeybees who have been naturally swarming near trails and such and find them a docile, if acoustically intimidating, companion. Their buzzing can get quite loud in mass and I think this scares a lot of people, too.

I don’t have room for honeybees here in my yard, but I think in different circumstances I might become a beekeeper, tending my flock for the benefit of us both.

 

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