Monday, 2 April 2012

Would You Believe....?

The humble Honey Bee (Maori Pi Honi) Apis melifera is not an insect I seem to see a lot of at The Cottage although there must be millions of them around as I assume that they are used to pollinate the apples in the orchards that surround me.  Today one paid me a visit but seemed very dozy.  Mind you it was fairly cold - mid teens - and wet.  After I'd photographed it I decided to check my Maori spelling and look up the Latin.  Whilst doing so I read the rest of the blurb in Andrew Crow's Which New Zealand Insect.  I learned two things: when it is angry the Honey Bee makes a high-pitched war-cry; and that the Honey Bee is New Zealand's most dangerous insect.  I know that we are very lucky here not to have the myriad of dangerous insects that they have across the Tasman in Oz but nevertheless I hadn't realised that we are quite that lucky.   I'm not the slightest bit afraid of bees whilst wasps terrify me (when I'm not behind a camera).  In fact I'm not sure that I actually believe Mr Crowe's assessment to be entirely accurate.


  1. Same here - I get rigid with fear when a wasp is nearby (or, alternatively, run around hysterically, trying to shake off my pursuer), but I like bees and am not at all afraid of them.

  2. I actively disliked a bee a few weeks ago when one, unbeknownst to me, tried to hitch a ride in the car and objected when I stopped and removed the seat belt, and disturbed it. It's been so many years since I had a bee sting I'd forgotten how painful they can be. There are still plenty in the garden but thankfully no wasps. Great photos.

  3. I suspect Mr Crowe is relying on death statistics and since those who are highly allergic to bee stings can be killed them I imagine they account for more deaths than Archey's Frogs or Kiwis!

  4. Isn't it interesting (because we love honey so much?) we are generally happy around, well, at least tolerant of, bees despite their capacity to inflict pain...

    Just don't get too near a hive, that's all. You definitely see defensive behaviour then: I've was stung half a dozen times once when I wandered too close.

  5. On average, according to Govt statistics, 2 people die every 3 years from wasp or bee stings undifferentiated). A chap was recently stung to death by wasps here in NZ and I have a friend here who has just had wasp allergy treatment because they reckoned the next sting could be fatal. I was stung by a Bumble Bee when I put my hand on one on the car door handle but that was in the UK many years ago. It was certainly a lot more painful than the wasp stings I've had. Yes Katherine bees can be very defensive but when I was in the beekeeping society at school I never received one sting when taking a hive apart (of course we wore head coverings and used smoke bellows to make them drowsy). Not that this takes us one iota further in our quest for the most dangerous NZ insect.

  6. I keep feeling we should cherish bees, because it seems that almost every week I hear more scare stories about how threatened they are, and how much we need them, and the whole ecosystem needs them

    By the way I am now back and will be able to commnent on blogs again. I can sort of do it on my phone but all kinds of Blogger features are not available, like editing posts properly, or scrolling down... and even posting a comment seems a flaky business. I may get a different kind of phone next time.

    As for bees and wasps, I stood on a wasp last year and it was awful. I don't recollect having had a bee sting. I'm not scared of bees, thankfully. But I find myself wondering how dangerous is dangerous. Fatal? Permanently incapacitated? or just OW?

    1. That's both of us back Jenny. I think the effect of stings is a personal one of allergic reaction. They all hurt to some degree although in my experience bees hurt a lot more than wasps. Bees have a barbed sting (which is why they die when they sting) with a little poison sac. If a bee stings you then the sting should be scraped or dug out without damaging the sac if at all possible. Wasp stings are not barbed and are easier to get out. I think I once read that they had a similar sac on the sting. I do know that bee stings are alkali and treated with eg vinegar whereas wasps are acid and can be treated with a bicaronate of soda paste.

  7. I woke up dreaming of bees (and, for once, it was not a nightmare). I should have added to my last comment that at school we had at least half a dozen hives right in the middle of the school complex and we had to go past them many times every day and the cricket pitch and playing fields were adjacent. I can't recall anyone being stung but then I probably wouldn't have known anyway. The point being that I can't imagine anyone nowadays allowing bee colonies anywhere near a school (in the UK or US) for fear of being sued if a child was stung.