One of the sounds of spring is the return of buzzing insects. For many people though, that buzzing brings fears, especially of bee stings. Well, “Don’t worry, Bee Happy!” Most kinds of bees will not sting, and healthy populations of bees are great for your garden!
Most “bee” stings are not actually from bees. Minnesota is home to over 400 species of bees, and most of them do not actually have stingers, and many of those that do have stingers produce so little venom that you probably would not really notice it. On top of that, only female bees can sting.
The majority of stings are actually from predatory yellow jackets (not a bee!) and are more interested in your picnic food. The remainder of stings come from domesticated European honey bees and from some of our native bumble bees, both of which we depend upon for many crops. None of these insects will sting you unless they feel threatened, so it is best to just watch them do their awesome buzzy thing in peace.
European honey bees get the majority of the headlines, but scientific research shows that agricultural and natural systems do best when there are many different kinds of bees and other pollinators present. Unfortunately, many pollinators are in trouble – suffering from loss of flowers, new diseases and parasites, and pesticides. You can tell the bees, “don’t worry!” when you Plant For Pollinators! Also, keep an eye out for the endangered rusty patched bumble bee!
Dr. Erik Runquist is a Conservation Biologist at the Minnesota Zoo. He manages the Prairie Butterfly Conservation Program, which is helping save Endangered Minnesota butterflies through rearing and breeding programs at the Zoo, the world’s first reintroductions back into Minnesota prairies, and studying what can be done to help them thrive. He encourages everyone to plant for pollinators, get outside, and explore nature.