Weekly Feature

2017-10-04 / Editorials

The ‘buzz’ about the honeybees

They are among nature’s most misunderstood animals – honeybees. These flying insects get a bad rap in part because of their cousins, the wasps and yellow jackets. Recently, “American Horror Story” actress Sarah Paulson revealed that she is afraid of bees, calling them “disgust- ing.” Even elephants are afraid of bees, as discovered by scientists in Kenya in 2007.

So why the disdain for this hovering helper?

For many people, it’s a lack of understanding. Erin Masterson Holko of Masterson’s Garden Center says many people are misinformed when it comes to the difference between wasps, yellow jackets and bees. She says she regularly talks to people who developed the fear after being stung years ago.

“They realize that it wasn’t a bee that stung them when they were 7 years old drinking a soda; it was probably a wasp.” Holko’s main tip for people looking to overcome this fear is to watch a bee for a few minutes and see if it’s collecting pollen or nectar.

“In the time it takes you to watch that bee and figure out what she’s doing, you realize she is paying zero attention to you,” says Holko. “Unless you’re bothering a hive, honeybees are not scary.”

Honeybees are also responsible for a majority of the food we eat. Before you bite into that apple, think of this: It’s estimated that one in every three bites of food you take began to grow as a result of bee pollination. That’s a crop value of $15 billion to $18 billion.

In the last half-decade alone, 30 percent of the bee population has disappeared. Right here in New York, the loss of pollinators is hovering around 50 percent. In June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded seven grants totaling $6.8 million to universities across the country working to sustain healthy populations of pollinators.

New York leaders are also stepping up to help the honeybee. In 2015, a special Pollinator Task Force was developed with the goal of protecting the bees and their environment, as well as working on education programs to teach people more about bees. Buffalo introduced its Green Code this past spring, allowing city residents to keep hives in their yards.

Unfortunately, this fear and misunderstanding, coupled with zoning restrictions, prevent people in many locations from owning beehives in their backyards. Hopefully, in the future, the community can have a better understanding of honeybees and lift these restrictions.

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