News / Science & Technology

Bees Are Misunderstood, Experts say

Arash Arabasadi
WASHINGTON -  Many of us swat or shoo away the buzzing bee that invades a summer picnic without realizing that may be upsetting a creature with little interest in human.  Environmentalists argue that the striped insect is as important to agriculture as soil or sunshine.  

According to a United Nations report, bees pollinate more than 70% of the 100 crop species that provide most of the world’s food.  The report says the honeybee may be in danger for reasons ranging from pesticides to a lack of regional plant diversity.  

Be nice to bees, advises Jeff Miller of Miller says you might not care as much for your dinner if they were not buzzing around your neighborhood.

“If we didn’t have pollinators the only kinds of foods we could eat would be wind-pollinated vegetables such as grasses, grains, grapes things of that nature,” he explains.

Miller's company sells beekeeping supplies. partnered with the Walker Jones Elementary School to start a community garden - tended by students and local volunteers.

“Well, you can’t talk about urban farming without talking about pollinators any more than you could talk about urban farming without talking about water or sunlight,” notes Miller.

“A lot of the aspects of your life are impacted by the pollination services that honeybees provide,” adds researcher Heidi Wolff, who first surrounded herself with bees as a teenager 13 years ago.  Now she studies them at George Washington University.

“Plants do not thrive without pollination.  They cannot complete their life cycle without pollination.  And bees provide that service,” she explains.

While many people worry about bee stings, both Miller and Wolff say that’s a big misunderstanding.

“These are not aggressive beings. They’re rather gentle," Miller insists.  "We’ve been trying to prove that with our proximity here.”

Miller explains that after a bee stings a person, their stingers fall off and they die.

“It is a little bit of a kamikaze-type situation," he says, "yeah… the reality is: we haven’t had a stinging incident here [in the garden] anyway.”

Miller says bees don’t care too much about people in the first place.

“Bees are just focused on doing their own work.  And they’re not really interested in being bothered by humans," he says.  "They’re not interested in you. They’re just there to collect nectar and pollen and bring it back to the colony.”

Miller says it takes about $400 to start your own hive, but that each one yields about 45 kilograms of honey every year.  However, Wolff cautions would-be amateur beekeepers to do some research first.

“You don’t just want to get a box of bees, throw it somewhere and just hope you figure it out," she says. "That’s when you get problems.  That’s when your neighbors get scared.  That’s when people get stung.”

Wolff adds that bees need all the positive press possible, and that irresponsible beekeepers do more harm than good to the pollination process.

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs