Saturday, October 26, 2013

To Bee or Not to Bee

Hi everyone :) I've had a very busy week as you can probably tell from  my lack of posts. Common App added this horrifying clock symbol to remind me that my app is due pretty soon.... it's scary!! Tests, supplements, 5 page English essays: the stress is very real. I promise it'll get better in January!! Next week is Halloween and I'm getting ready to dress up as a cat! I don't know if I have any other life updates . . . my life is pretty boring as the guy who sits in front of me in Stat always likes to tell me. 

Ranting about politics (health care, elections, etc)
Hot chocolate 
King Lear 
Saying no to dastardly jelly beans 
Sweater Dresses
K-indie music 
Museums & Zoos
Writing Supplements
Sleeping late
Small wallets
Puffy Vests

Ranting about biology (Gibberellin, plant hormones)
Jellybean Roulette
Spanish music (Laura no esta) 
Ti-89 (I thought this day would never come)
State run parks 
Studying for standardized tests
Sleeping early
Large wallets (even Kate Spade..)

Caffe Latte by Geeks
Growing Up by Run River North
Katy Perry Prism album
The Love Club by Lorde

So here's the speech I've been working so hard on for public speaking! Enjoy :) NO STEALING!

 To Bee or Not to Bee

To bee, or not to bee--that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous apiphobia
Or to take arms against a sea of pesticides
And by opposing end them. To die, to sting, to buzz no more—

We all know the famous line from Hamlet’s soliloquy “to be or not to be”. But rather than contemplating over human existence, perhaps Hamlet actually meant to talk about something much smaller, much cuter, yet neverless scream inducing. That’s right, I’m talking about none other than the bees. So today let us fly through the origin of bees, land on how bees communicate with each other, suck on some honey as we explore the benefits that bees give to mankind, and finally waggle dance our way to the lasting impact bees have on the world.  

So what is the buzz with bees? 130 million years ago, bees helped the flowers sprout and provided food for all the mammals. They, like humans, originated in Africa and soon made a beeline for Asia and Europe. After the Ice Age, civilizations, realizing the usefulness of these small but mighty insects, quickly mastered their honey hunting skills. As Europeans started to immigrate to America, they brought their beekeeping skills along with  the freedom of religion, the printing press, and influenza. Because bees pollinated most of the European crops, they were essential to 17th century America. Bees eventually spread to all of North America, New Zealand, Australia, and Tasmania, with some help from humans. Today 20,000 species of bees exist but only 6 of these species are kept commercially: Italian, Russian, Carnolian, Caucasian, Buckfast, and German.

These six types of bees have their distinctions and peculiarities but are all known as the Western honeybee or the Apis Mellifera. Their actual size ranges from 0.4 to 0.6 inches, roughly the size of a paperclip. The Western honeybee has 5 eyes to see you with, 2 sets of wings to chase you with, a stinger to attack you with, and a proboscis and mandible to eat you with! Just kidding!

People have always had an unreasonable fear of bees, mostly stemming from the fact that bees, well, sting. In reality, bees are much more docile than we seem to think. In 2011 more people died from falling off of their chairs, I repeat, falling off of their chairs than they did from being stung by a bee, and yet ironically we don't shriek whenever we catch sight of a deadly recliner. Contrary to what most teenage girls seem to think, bees have little motivation to tear their abdomens by stinging people. All they want to do is find their pollen and protect themselves. Think about it, if you’re the size of a paperclip and Winnie the Pooh thinks your sole existence is to give him the food you’ve worked so hard for, you’d probably be pretty defensive too.

Have you ever realize that Winnie the Pooh never got sick? Perhaps it’s because so many bees stung him! It takes roughly 1000 stings for a person to die. Sure a bee sting might be irritating, but did you know that the venom in bee stings contains the protein Melittin, which destroys some viruses and malignant tumor cells, including HIV. But I get it: the thought of being stung scares most of us, so what should we do if we get stung by a bee? The solution is simple. Apply toothpaste, ice, or a raw onion to the bee sting and watch as the symptoms disappear! MAGIC!
Bees communicate through pheromones, are dedicated to organic food, and care deeply about the environment. They’re more like hipsters than vicious killing machines, hipsters with some sweet moves. If food is close by, the scout bee dances in a circle but if the food  is more than 60 meters away, the scout performs the waggle dance! The waggle dance consists of walking in a line and then looping back to create a figure eight shape. The number of waggles tells the other scouts the distance. The angle at which the bee dances indicates where the food is relative to the hive and the sun. I’m sure your date to prom will be so amazed!

You may think it’d be difficult to interpret the waggle dance when 20-30,000 other bees are all watching and dancing too. The hive is a counterpart to manmade apartments and made of hexagonal wax walls called a honeycomb. The hive works more like a sorority or a women’s college rather than. . . .the chaos of an apartment with all the people who play music too loudly downstairs and the old people who are always banging on the ceiling upstairs. To prevent this, the Queen bee, at 0.6 inches, is the largest bee in the hive and plays the part of landlady using pheromones. Inside the hive, the ratio of female to male bees is 100 to 1 and these girls take care of everything from finding the pollen to cleaning the hive to building honeycomb. I’m telling you, if you want work done trust the ladies.  None of us humans would probably join this sorority since it’s less ice cream filled reveries while rolling in the grass under a backdrop of unicorns and rainbows and more well . .  . work.

All this work produces the golden, sugary syrup that we know as honey.
As Winnie the Pooh put it best:
“Everything is honey
I can't get enough
Of lots and lots of
Pots and pots of
Sticky licky stuff”

Besides being a sweet and tangy addition to any kitchen cabinet, honey elevates ordinary things into wondrous creations. Just add a spoonful of honey, and lemon water becomes a miracle solution for sore throats. Honey is so versatile that it can be used to fix dry skin, acne, wounds, and frizzy hair. It helps with low energy because honey maintains glycogen levels and breaks down toxic chemicals like acetaldehyde in alcohol to relieve hangovers. Honey nut cheerios are delectable, sweet, and irresistible, just like me!

However, honey is definitely not the only benefit we can get from honeybees. Every year bees contribute $20 billion to the US economy and are responsible for the highly profitable blueberry bogs of Maine and almond industry of California. These statistics may not mean much but in plain terms bees are the reason that we can eat 4.5 cups of vegetables and fruits EVERY DAY. It means that we have the wonders of Nutella and vanilla. We’d lose 1/3 of our food supply including but not limited to raspberries, peaches, zucchini, apples, asparagus, cucumbers, celery, onion, watermelon, lemons, etc because all of these plants need to be fertilized in order to bear fruit. If bees didn’t do all this hard work, people would have to laboriously pollinate each and every plant with a paintbrush. To show the importance of bees, a Whole Foods in Rhode Island took out all the foods that depended on pollinators. 237 out of 453, or 52% of food items were gone, bemps, missing. Can you imagine Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce, Fourth of July without apple pie, summer without lemonade, pizza without tomato? What would America be without bees?

But despite our heavy reliance on these creatures, there exists a growing epidemic that threatens the very existence of bees. The bee-pocalypse started in 2006 when beekeepers found that their hives were completely devoid of bees. Just last winter, 42% of US honeybee colonies died. Everyone is buzzing around for clues to what is causing  these colonies to collapse. People point their fingers at everything from bad beekeeping, to alien invasions, to pesticides, to acid rain, to a changing environment, to cell phones, to the death star, to mites, to anything really. Scientists are coming to agreement that the soup of pesticides, fungicides, neonticides, and herbicides is mainly responsible for the death of 3 million colonies in the US and billions of bees worldwide in these last seven years. Though these pesticides are not targeted at bees specifically, these pesticides contain many toxins that reduce the bees’ resistance to parasites. Einstein had theorized that if the bee disappears from the surface of our globe, man would have no more than four years to live. Although we see bees mainly connected to food source, they play an compulsory role in the environment and have been for over 130 million years. Honey, please don’t go!

As the 21st Century Shakespeare, Jerry Seinfeld puts it best in the Bee Movie, “According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyway because bees don't care what humans think is impossible.” Bees have never been afraid to change the world, so why should we? Sure some fancy legislation would be nice, but what the bees really need is a change in attitude. Instead of screaming when a bee visits you in statistics class or during lunch, remember how important they are to our lives, the flowers, and the stability of the Earth. Put on your turtlenecks and suspenders, plant your own pesticide free gardens, and help the bees go to buzz and beyond. 

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