I’m calling an Animal Planet audible. While 2020 was the scene in a nature documentary that makes you never want to watch a nature documentary ever again, there’s still time to turn 2021 into the jaunty, comic relief scene. How? Three words: Teddy Bear Bees.
To say last year was horrible would be an understatement. On top of living through a global pandemic, we were all accosted with headlines that only seemed to increase in severity as the days went on. And, honestly, 2021 hasn’t been much better, with headlines of countries entering their third wave of COVID-19, protesters killed in Myanmar, American police brutality and mass shootings, France’s proposed hijab ban, and more.
For me personally, the headline that broke the camel’s back, so to speak, in 2020 was murder hornets. If you’re unfamiliar with murder hornets, I will keep it brief. Last year, it was reported that a subspecies of hornets (also named the Asian giant hornets) had arrived on U.S. soil. In Japan, these hornets kill at least 50 people a year. When they were discovered in Washington State, beekeepers realized they were infiltrating honeybee hives, decapitating bees, and then making off with their thoraxes, which they then fed to their young. Insert dramatic reverb sound effect here.
Murder hornets are the imposters (any Among Us fans?) of the insect world: they are committing atrocious crimes—by human moral standards at least—and wiping out an already endangered species.
In addition, given what we know about American racism toward the Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, I couldn’t help but notice some similarities between media outlets sensationalizing the alleged origins of COVID-19 and the origins of murder hornets. Both angles felt xenophobic and racist. Both were used to make Americans feel threatened—when in actuality the only thing threatening Americans is Americans (i.e. white Americans.)
Thus, murder hornets were an all-around sour cherry of bad news set atop an already garbage sundae of worse news. But in 2021, I’m saying enough is enough. We’re making Teddy Bear Bees happen to give ourselves a brain break from horrifying headlines.
Don't care what anyone says,
Teddy bear bees are my favorite bees! pic.twitter.com/fyGMVO45Fm
— isTaTaT (@isTaTaT) April 16, 2021
In California, male Carpenter Bees have become affectionately known as “Teddy Bear Bees” because of their fat, fuzzy, and golden stature. These bees are also native to Australia and can reach lengths up to 15 to 20 millimeters, which is pretty big for bees. The best part about Teddy Bear Bees is that they cannot sting you! This makes them gentle giants gracing our gardens with sweet sounds and immaculate vibes.
I only recently discovered the existence of Teddy Bear Bees after my mom showed me a photo someone had posted on social media. To feast your eyes on an image of a Teddy Bear Bee taken on an iPhone is akin to how I imagine people in 1934 felt when first seeing the now-infamous photo of the Loch Ness Monster. Or maybe even how viewers of the Patterson-Gimlin film felt after catching that first glimpse of Big Foot’s long-armed gait.
All that to say, it seemed like it was staged or doctored, like someone with too much time on their hands photoshopped a regular-sized bee to hover over the flowers in their garden like a grainy UFO spotted in the middle of the desert. It looked like something you’d see on the covers of the salacious magazines that once lined grocery store checkout aisles, artfully crafted to grab your attention with utter absurdity.
This was ID’d as Amegilla (Asarapoda) bombiformis, commonly known as a teddy bear bee. It’s very cute and an absolute unit compared to the smaller “blue banded bees”. pic.twitter.com/cgoXjbIBrm
— Diana (@diana_liwen) January 15, 2021
A quick google search confirmed, however, that not only are Teddy Bear Bees real, but many bee species remain endangered. The Center for Biological Diversity reports that more than half of North America’s 4,000 native bee species are in decline, with 1 in 4 species at risk of extinction.
With spring officially sprung in the Northern Hemisphere, there are a few ways to help the bee populations in your community this season. First and foremost, plant a garden with bee-friendly flowers and trees, rich in pollen and nectar, to help rebuild safe habitats. This can also take the form of building bee condos and setting out bee baths, which are typically shallow bowls filled with water to help keep bees hydrated.
You can also help by making a commitment to never use pesticides and fertilizers that are harmful to bees. Instead, stock up on organic products and try out organic solutions like composting and adding natural pest-eaters like ladybugs and praying mantis to your garden. Lastly, don’t forget to support your local beekeepers. If you’re not feeling up to the task of fostering a bee community in your backyard, help out the beekeepers who are up to the task by purchasing their products. These products are great ways to shop locally and sustainably.
Celebrate Earth Month, taking place all April long, by creating some buzz around Teddy Bear Bees and encouraging your friends to join the #BeeTheSolution movement! Happy Earth Month, everyone!
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