When I was a child, I was always afraid of bees and other insects. You can thank the fire ants in Chihuahua for that. They always managed to sting me in the summers that I spent there running around with my cousins. Grandpa would compound the hurt by adding merthiolate (thimerosal and alcohol, basically) to all the stings. Those stings were horrible, and I came to believe that the stings from any insect were bad especially for me. That was only confirmed in college, when I got stung by a wasp and broke out in really bad hives all over. (I should really carry an epinephrine syringe.)
One summer, my uncle decided that he was going to raise bees. He had three hives, and he got a lot of honey from them. In order to encourage me to lose my fear of insects, dad told me to go see how my uncle got the honey. As I approached him as he smoked the beehive, a swarm of bees came at me. I freaked out and ran away.
Now that I’m older, I understand that honeybees will pretty much leave you alone if you leave them alone. They only attack to protect the hive. Africanized honeybees are said to be more aggressive towards people near the swarm, but I’ve seen them out and about and haven’t noticed them chasing me or anything like that. Then again, I haven’t run into a swarm.
I went to a sunflower field in Maryland today. The Washington Post recently announced that the sunflowers were in full bloom, so a ton of people had the same idea I had. Still, with some good depth-of-field management and the right angles, I managed to not take too many pictures of people and a lot of pictures of sunflowers. (The full album is on my Flickr page by clicking here.)
It shouldn’t be a secret to you that bees are in trouble, and we need them for our food supply. As I walked among the flowers today, I had a lot of bees and bumblebees flying around me, and a couple of them landed. None stung me, and I didn’t hear anyone complain from being stung. I did wonder, however, if I was the only one there worried about the future of the bees. (I’m sure I wasn’t.)
So I’ve planted my own sunflowers in the backyard right around July 4th. They should be blooming by mid-August, just in time to meet The Child. Hopefully, lots of bees will take advantage of them and pollinate other plants nearby. I see that my neighbors have a lot of vegetable gardens going, but not a lot of flowers for bees. So maybe they will also benefit?
Anyway, here are some more pictures from today, and I hope you too will consider helping out the bees in any way you can.
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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