Bees Do Do-Do

Diapers for bees?  Some folks stopped me when I was leaving an apiary that I once had in a Florida orange grove. They didn’t own the grove, but their house was within fifty yards. They told me that my bees were crapping on their bright shiny car. Well, OK, their brownly besmudged car. I saw half a dozen specks. It looked like some sort of yellow rain. They were polite, I was polite. They suggested bee diapers. I told them I’d be moving the hives in a few days, and I did. The citrus honey flow was over.

No, bees didn't do this. They couldn't do this even if they didn't like you.

No, it’s not bee do-do. Bees couldn’t do this even if they wanted to.

I had planned to move my bees. But there’s an outfit in Massachusetts that would find relocating rather difficult. The owners are 3rd-generation beekeepers with a 55-acre farm. According to news reports, some distant neighbours have filed a nuisance complaint. They say that they can’t enjoy the outdoors without receiving natural bee fertilizer.   In their hair. On their car.

They filed a complaint. The local health board ruled that the bee business “unreasonably interferes with the owners use and enjoyment of their property.” The beekeepers have a few days to remedy the situation or face a $1,000 a day fine. I think it’s significant that its the local health board that issued the violation notice. They suggest bee droppings are a health issue. They are wrong.

Bee crap is not a health issue. No one gets sick from the scattered bits let loose by flying bees. I agree that the excrement can be unsightly and a nuisance to clean from a bright shiny car. It’s part of life on – or near – a farm. From the complaint, it’s an alleged problem only in May and June. Honey bees do their business in flight, flushing their toilets at about 30 feet. Granted, that’s lower than the Boeing that lets our stuff loose into the stratosphere. But the bee’s do-do is much cleaner. Bees digest honey, they are not the nasty omnivores we are. Bee pooh is clean pooh. Frankly, their shit don’t stink. Not a health issue.

Bee yard, lower left, complainers, upper right - over 300 metres away.

Bee yard, lower left, complainers, upper right – over 300 metres away.

I don’t know all the details, but I looked up the location of the complainers and the location of the honey farm. You can see on the map above, they are 320 metres (about 350 yards) apart. There are a lot of other homes (no complaints?) nearby and quite a few trees and fields around. Bees usually relieve within 100 metres of their hives. The alleged distance is unusual. If you take the numbers of bees and divide by the potential Area of Defecation (AOD), you can see that the actual likely number of defecators within any specific AOD located 350 metres from the hives is pretty small. A trickle, so to speak.

All done!

All done!

To heap dumbness atop dumbness, the Billerica Health Board suggested a silly remedy to the beekeepers: they could plant flowers on their own farm to keep the bees at home. I can feel the ground shake with vibes of unrestrained laughter. Do these people actually think that bees will stay on a farm if flowers are planted for them? Bees fly kilometres in search of food. They don’t recognize any farm’s boundaries. (Bees are smart, but not that smart.)

I suppose that the health officials working for the Massachusetts town of Billerica were trying to be helpful. However, if the health board sages were truly thinking at their best, they would have recommended diapers for the bees.

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a geophysicist who also does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and is based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He has written two books, dozens of magazine and journal articles, and complements his first book, Bad Beekeeping, with a popular blog at www.badbeekeeping.com. Ron wrote his most recent book, The Mountain Mystery, for everyone who has looked at a mountain and wondered what miracles of nature set it upon the landscape. For more about Ron, including some cool pictures taken when he was a teenager, please check Ron's site: miksha.com.
This entry was posted in Bee Yards, Beekeeping, Commercial Beekeeping, Humour, Strange, Odd Stuff and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Bees Do Do-Do

  1. George and Tammy says:

    So funny and so sad at the same time!

    Like

  2. Emily Scott says:

    Oh my. Those poor beekeepers. Effectively they’re being told they have to remove the bees.

    Like

    • Ron Miksha says:

      They’ve been there for decades. I think they will appeal the ruling, but if they lose, they’ll be forced to pay – no beekeeper can afford to pay $1,000/day to keep a yard.

      Like

  3. Michael Stephens says:

    I own a hazelnut farm in Oregon and a few years ago one of my neighbors complained to the county about chemical drift of pesticides. The county sent an inspector to take samples at my neighbor’s house and the complaint was dismissed because there was no trace of residual chemicals. I don’t know how things work in Massachusetts, but I would expect the county or the health department to collect samples at the neighbor’s location to prove that the “yellow rain” is: 1) actually bee poop, 2) bacteriologically harmful, and 3) in sufficient quantities to be detrimental to people. If the health department doesn’t have any of this data, then I think the beekeeper would be in a position take the matter to court and sue for damages & lost income. By the way, I’m willing to bet that the “yellow rain” is just pollen from a nearby tree.

    Like

  4. okey says:

    I’m a bee keeper and i’ll just about bet you you’re right

    Like

  5. Pingback: The Synthetic Hive | Bad Beekeeping Blog

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