Bees need friends, too

Published 9:40 pm Wednesday, February 23, 2011

If you’ve ever been stung by a bee, you probably have an idea that bees can do a pretty good job of protecting themselves, thank you very much.

But everyone needs a little help from a friend now and then, and honeybees are no different — especially in recent years, as their numbers have been reduced by colony collapse disorder and a string of unusually cold winters. And a group has formed in Suffolk to see what it can do to help the city’s bee colonies stay strong and productive.

The Nansemond Beekeepers’ Association comprises a group of dedicated and concerned apiarists — bee enthusiasts to the rest of us — who are concerned for the future of bees in the area, and by extension for the future of man in the area.

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Bees, as it turns out, are far more than a nuisance or even a danger to the people who might step on them. Despite their reputation for stinging, they are vital to human survival because of their work pollinating flowers, including the flowers of the food that people grow. About a third of the human diet comes from plants that honeybees have pollinated. Without bees to pollinate them, those crops would soon die off, and mankind would be left without those particular food sources.

So far, about 35 people in Suffolk have expressed an interest in helping the new beekeepers’ association get the word out on the important role that bees play in our world and to learn more about how they can raise bees themselves. These efforts, along with the group’s commitment to help Suffolk residents deal with swarms in a way that will not threaten the city’s bee community, should go a long way toward propping up a bee population that has been hurt in recent years.

If you’ve ever been stung by a bee, protecting them might not seem like such a wonderful thing, but the alternative is truly unthinkable.