Madder than a hornet…
…which, by the way, is nothing at all like a bee, especially a honeybee. Honeybees are sort of brown and gold, lightly striped, and have furry little bulbous bodies. They are basically very gentle and will almost never sting you unless they feel threatened. And if they do feel threatened and sting you, they will die shortly thereafter.
Hornets and wasps are very different, even though most of the time when people see one, they go “Eeek! Bee!”–I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen a honeybee just sort of cruising in my pedestrian airspace; they are busy creatures who mostly are getting their pollination job done. (Bumblebees–okay, I see them in my airspace quite often. They are a little klutzy in their navigation techniques; sometimes I wonder if evolution knew what it was doing with that bunch. But they still seldom sting.)
Wasps, especially yellow-jackets, are not fuzzy, are clearly delineated black/yellow, and have skinny little waists like someone from Gone with the Wind. (Whereas honeybees are shaped more like…me.) They eat fruit juice and other insects, mostly–that’s why they need to be able to sting repeatedly without dying; they use the stinger to take out their prey. These creatures are everywhere especially in late summer and early fall, and especially at that time of year they are crabby and aggressive. I’ve heard a couple of theories about why this might be true–one is that they are about to die, they are getting old and at the end of their life cycle and are just pissed off about it, so they go around stinging everyone because they’re mad that they are about to die. Since I don’t think there have been many studies regarding yellow-jacket self-awareness and individuation, I am fairly skeptical about this one. The other is that in late summer and early fall the fruit they are sucking juice from is more likely to be all fermenty, so these aren’t just aggressive wasps but drunk aggressive wasps. Makes a bit more sense than existentialist angst, don’t you think?
Anyway, as usual, I digress…
Honeybees are fabulous. They are cute, they are basically gentle, and they play a crucial part in the continuation of our plant life diversity. And they have been dying out at an alarming rate. “Colony Collapse Disorder” is something you’ve probably heard about; it’s been going on for a while, and it’s gotten a lot of press as This Great Mystery No One Can Figure Out: Why are the Honeybees Dying?
So this week when I saw this article, I got really, really mad and wanted to go out and start stinging someone myself:
Leaked document. Known about this for a while. Big mystery? Not so much.
Read the article–Bayer petitions EPA to be able to use a new pesticide. EPA says not till it’s proven safe, then backtracks to give “conditional” registration, which means “well, we’re not sure it’s safe, but until we figure it out you can use it anyway.” EPA requires Bayer to produce a study proving it safe. Study is done, but it’s ridiculously badly done by any scientific standards. No one seems to notice or care, and no one who might notice or care can get access to it since EPA refused to release it even after petitions under Freedom of Information Act. Pesticide continues to be used, bees continue to die. EPA memo leaked indicating that EPA scientists knew the study was bogus but allowed the conditional registration to become fully approved in April of this year anyway.
I’m getting to that point where I almost don’t want to read news or blogs any more, because it’s just all so unbelievable.
Also see these links:
(and this one is unrelated but really interesting:) The Mystery of the Red Bees of Red Hook