News & Notes 632:Rock Bees – an appeal

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632 icon.jpg   News & Notes 632
16 January 2016

Rock Bees – an appeal

Some 5 to 10 years ago Rock Bee nests could be seen almost everywhere in Auroville, hanging on the structure of Matrimandir, suspended from the branches of trees or under the Bharat Nivas high roof extension, etc. Today they are becoming quite rare in Auroville; in fact it is now a cause for concern that this wonderful wild bee, a prolific pollinator and honey producer that has never been domesticated and lives only outside hives, seems to be disappearing from our area. Why? The answer is we don’t know, but a definite contributory factor must be the common reaction that most of us have had on finding a nest near our home or place of work i.e. calling the MM team to “come and deal with it before someone gets stung.”

The fact is, either smoking or suctioning out the nest’s occupants almost invariably results in death of the entire bee population, specially when the central queen has been killed in the process, because without her the nest loses its purpose.

This note is an appeal to everyone in Auroville to please stop destroying their nests and thereby killing them, and specially to not call the MM team to come and “deal with” any nest near you. Bee populations are in decline almost everywhere, and we simply cannot afford to lose them (some 90 commercial food crops worldwide depend on them for pollination). Try to see them instead as an integral part of the natural world we live in; be protective of them; appreciate them and what they do to sustain our life on earth; and focus only on the good they do.

OK, we all know that they have occasionally “attacked” people, but this is extremely rare. Meanwhile, be aware that their “attack” is initially just an exploratory investigation. They fly around you checking you out, buzzing aggressively as they do so to see if you are a threat to their nest, i.e. it is a defensive action. Only when you start flailing your arms about and swatting at them do they start to sting (the first sting releases a chemical pheromone signal that triggers other bees to also sting). The secret, should you find yourself subject to such an investigation and can’t get indoors or escape rapidly on a 2-wheeler, is to remain as still and calm as possible, or to move only very slowly, ideally with some clothing item over your head. If you can manage to do this, there is a good chance they will decide you are not a threat and move on.