Boating Adventures | "More Uninvited Guests: Bees" | Article and Photos by Vicki Totten

A ball of honey bees in Rockport Harbor

Lately, instead of writing about Boating Adventures, my adventures have had more to do with flying, swimming, and stinging creatures. Last week I wrote about lovebugs, mosquitoes and jelly fish. This week it is bees that have captured my attention, since it seems that bees have also captured the anchor of a boat docked near mine in the Rockport Harbor. I first spotted them as I was walking down the dock and noticed what I thought was a ball of woven rope attached to the anchor of a large sailboat docked near mine. Upon closer inspection (but not too close), I was shocked to discover that instead of it being a ball of rope, it was a ball of bees.

Now since I am no bee expert, the first thing I wanted to do was find out if these were Africanized bees or Honey bees. So I did what any 21st century researcher would do. I took a picture of the bees and posted it on Facebook asking for help in identifying the type of bees.

Thankfully, I immediately received a response from beekeeper Anna Alkin. Anna is the owner of LunaSol Farm and a former colleague of mine before she escaped to Eugene, Oregon from Austin. She tracked down the contact information for the Aransas County Agricultural Extension and suggested I call them for the names of some local beekeepers who might be able to move the bees. And because she felt certain they were Honey bees and not Africanized bees, she urged me to try to keep people from freaking out and spraying them.

Fortunately, I was able to make contact with the first beekeeper on the list obtained from the Agricultural Extension office. Based on my description, I was told that the bees I was seeing on the boat are just "camping" and will be gone within a few days. Once I got past the image of these little bees with backpacks on their backs, I was able to take in his explanation.         

Capturing an Anchor.
Beekeeper Anna Alkin and son Ian.

He told me that bees don't like to fly at night, since they navigate by the sun.  He said they also most likely don't want to fly over a large body of water and have scouts out looking for a better place for them to ultimately call home.  He suggested that I just leave them alone since they will be gone within a day or two.  So while the bees wait for their scouts to come back for them, I have let the other boat owners near me know about them and asked that they not freak out and spray them.

While I know very little about bees, I do know there are big concerns about the declining bee population, which is why it is important to try and save rather than spray and kill bees. According to a posting on Michigan State University's website, it is often said that bees are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat. This is because most crops grown for their fruits require pollination by insects. "Pollinating insects also play a critical role in maintaining natural plant communities and ensuring production of seeds in most flowering plants," according to the university's website. This information echoed what I had heard from people like Anna Alkin. Apparently our agricultural practices, specifically our pesticide use, is responsible for this decline.

It is still too soon to know if the bees camping on the boat near me really are planning to move on or not , since it is just day two. So in the meantime, I will continue sharing the dock with them. Apparently, I am not the only one who thinks boats are fun places to hang out on.

For more information about bees:

Vicki and husband, ceramic artist Stan Irvin, are both retired professors who have discovered the joys of Rockport and living part-time on their 33' sailboat, while exploring new sailing destinations and adventures.

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