Bees, not to be taken for granted

Jerry Apps
As a child, Jerry Apps believed bees were to be avoided. Today those winged workers are to be appreciated and more.

As a farm kid, I took bees for granted. I knew not to tangle with a hornets’ nest, or a paper wasp’s special paper-like construction or a bumble bee’s nest. I learned that if I stayed away from their nests, the bees didn’t bother me much.

One of my uncles had beehives and I came to like honey, especially during World War II when sugar was rationed. He would give us some comb honey; I really liked it smeared on a thick slice of home-made bread.

I didn’t think of honey bees, in the same way, I thought of other bees—and they were different of course.

At the time, I didn’t know how important bees were to farmers, especially for our gardens and fruit. Bees do heavy-duty pollination. Without them we’d have few apples or cranberries, just to give a couple of examples.

I recently read an article with the headline, “The Bee is declared the Most Important Living Being On the Planet.” That may be pushing it a little. But I got the point. The article went on to say that “the pollination that the bees make possible allows the plants to reproduce, of which millions of animals feed.”

And here’s the bottom-line. Bees are disappearing.

To add a personal experience. For the past five years, I’ve had a steady decrease in the number of pumpkins and squash I grow in my garden. I plant the same amount of seed, the plants come up and look good. They form blossoms—but no pumpkins and squash. I see few bees in my garden.

THE OLD-TIMER ASKS: What can we do to increase the bee population?

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to