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Know the West

Bee story belongs in a tabloid


Bee story belongs in a tabloid

Dear HCN,

I can't let the cover story "The BUZZ business" (HCN, 6/24/02) pass without comment. While I wouldn't dispute the fact that Africanized bees can react to disturbances with ferocity, the author chooses to take an unnecessarily hysterical approach to the subject. For example, while it may be accurate that 1,000 people have been killed by Africanized bees (good figures are difficult to come by and vary widely), this is hardly as sensational an item if it is divided by the 50 years these bees have been advancing through South, Central and North America (roughly 20 per year).

The author also makes some serious factual errors which suggest to me that he is careless about separating fantasy from reality. To wit:

He has the concept of how the bees cool the hive correct, but he should have quit while he was ahead. He goes on to say, "Squinting, concentrating on the tiny moving shapes, I can make out water droplets on their legs." I guess in 27 years of beekeeping I've just missed this phenomenon. The fact is it happens only in the author's imagination; bees transport water as they do nectar, drawn up through their hollow tongue and carried in the honey stomach. You are no more likely to see what the author describes than you are to see Holstein cows headed for the barn with little pails of milk suspended from their horns.

The bit about stinging is interesting, too. "Instead of just landing and stinging, as a regular bee does, a killer bee zooms at you full speed, with its stinger aimed forward, and hits with a noticeable pop, driving the stinger deep." This may happen in roadrunner cartoons, but not in the real world.

In and of themselves these points may be of no great significance, but they call into question the quality and validity of the article. The article would have been better placed in a tabloid and falls far short of the standards I have come to expect from HCN.

Tom Theobald Niwot, Colorado