Humans and bees have had a mutually-beneficial relationship for at least the last 4,000 years (and we've been raiding their wild hives for another 10,000 years beyond that). Bees provide humans with honey and wax and pollinate our crops while we give them homes and feed and protect them from predators and the elements. All in all it's been a good deal for both sides, but especially so for us over the last hundred years or so. Without the pollination services provided by bees, modern agriculture would come nowhere near the productivity levels it does today. Bees are a vital component of today's farm system and should be thanked every time you eat an almond, pepper, watermelon, cucumber, lemon or apple.
But even for all the good bees do for us, there are still some people who would include them on a list of their top fears. Excusing those who are allergic to bee venom, there's no good reason to be scared of the little flyers. Unlike wasps and hornets — who really can be jerks — bees are usually content to go about their day collecting pollen and nectar.
To help any of our readers who might suffer from melissophobia (fear of bees), we've put together a collection of videos showing bees having friendly, docile interactions with people. To conquer a fear, you must first face that fear, so take some time and watch these eight great videos of seven bees and a beetle chilling out with various humans.
I wrote about this video when it first hit the interwebs in July. In it, an unseen exuberant British man gives a high five (a high one in actuality) to a fat bumblebee taking a rest. Bumblebees are one of the more social of the world's ~20,000 bee species and form much smaller colonies than their honeybee cousins, with a typical hive clocking in around 50 bees. Bumblebees are highly prized in some agricultural sectors for their ability to "buzz pollinate" certain kinds of crops like tomatoes, blueberries and potatoes. This technique has them vibrate the air around flowers with their wings and muscles to dislodge hard-to-reach pollen.
This video of a Western honeybee hanging out on someone's finger is well shot and without the ebullient commentary of the previous video.
The videographer, Pornomoralizzatore, has another quiet bee video, but this one stars the European common carder bee.
I couldn't help but include this one.
This video was created as a response to the first found on our list as a reminder that the bee isn't the only insect cozying up with people.
I like this one because you can easily see how bees use their legs to collect pollen for delivery back to their hives. This little honeybee was likely resting in the midst of a long day of collecting pollen and nectar. Back at the hive, the bees will pack the pollen into compact balls and use them to feed themselves and their young. These pollen balls, known as bee pollen, also contain small amounts of honey, nectar, fungi, bacteria, and enzymes and are higher in nutritional content than the base pollen itself.
It's in the collecting of pollen that bees make their most important contribution to humankind. The grocery store would be a very different place without them.
This bee was enticed to pose for the camera with a gob of something sweet smeared on a surface. It's a fascinating view in how the bee's tongue works, shown through the translucent honey being hoovered up by the bee.
I can almost imagine the bumblebee in this video thinking "hey man, I'm trying to work here" as the person behind the camera very aggressively pets it. Considering the fact that bumblebee's stingers aren't barbed, allowing them to sting whenever and whoever they want, it's a testament to the bee's overall docility.
And we end our list with a bee docile enough to be passed around from friend to friend. Apart from Africanized honeybees, bees in general are mellow little fellows, happy enough to be left alone to go about their day. It's only when we step on them, swat at them, or drive into them (happened to me one time — I was driving with the window down and a bee bounced off the side view mirror, landed in my lap, and stung me) that they choose to sting.
We humans owe a lot to bees, so the next time one buzzes your way, just take a deep breath, think about almonds and tomatoes, and remain still as the bee gives you a sniff. As long as you aren't a flower, you'll be OK.
Want to read more about bees? Check out the latest buzz with these articles here on MNN: