Clemson Extension: Bees Attitudes | Clemson Extension

What comes to your mind when you think of a bee? Are you thinking of sweet honey or a painful sting? Is it the characteristic black and yellow coloring of a bee or the buzz it emits? You might be thinking of beehives, swarms, queens or other things, but I would like you to expand on your view of bees.

First of all, if the bite is the first thing you think about, know that it is not the insect’s primary intention to bite you. Insects bite for self-defense and to deactivate their prey. Social insects, like honey bees, will sting to protect their nests. Most biting insects will also sting if they feel threatened (such as when you hit or injure them.) Most bees that you will encounter in your daily activities are not interested in stinging you. In addition, some species of bees are stingless and are unable to sting you.

Speaking of bee species, it’s believed that between 500 and 700 (or more) different bee species are found in South Carolina. This does not include wasp family members such as yellow jackets and hornets, as bees have their own branch of the insect family tree. While some species form colonies, most bees are solitary. Solitary bees nest in holes in the ground or in hollow stems. Solitary bees include squash bees, minor bees, sweat bees, blueberry bees, and others.

Bees come in all kinds of sizes and color variations. While many have the characteristic yellow and black, some have a green, brown, white, and other coloring. Their size can range from 1 / 12th of an inch to over an inch long. You may have encountered a sweat bee that is metallic green in color and did not recognize it as a bee. Only about 1/3 inch long, they’re attracted to human sweat and can land on your skin for a quick sip. For more information on common bees in South Carolina, see HGIC 1733 online fact sheet, Native Pollinators.

Bees are extremely important pollinators. If you don’t think of anything else when you think of bees, consider their importance as pollinators. Our food production, wildlife food resources, plant reproduction and our local ecosystems all depend on bees. Many different plants require the help of pollinators to produce seeds and fruit. Without these seeds and fruits, there would be no food for wildlife and no new plants. Crops such as apples, peaches, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, watermelons, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and others depend on pollinators.

Bees are very sensitive to pesticides. You can help protect bees by using fewer pesticides. If necessary, choose less toxic pesticides. Apply pesticides in the evening when the bees are no longer foraging. Avoid applying pesticides to flowering plants. Dusts are more dangerous for bees because they are more likely to drift during application. Remember that even organic pesticides can cause harm.

A webinar covering cool season food plots will run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on October 6, and a virtual presentation on micro-grasslands will take place at noon on October 7. Visit the online calendar here to register for these and other events. : Contact me at [email protected] or 864-889-0541. The Greenwood County Extension Office at 105 N. University St. is open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Call the office at 864-223-3264 for assistance over the phone. For your convenience, soil samples can be left in the drop box outside of normal business hours at the office entrance. Visit our Facebook page at, where we will post information in a timely manner.

Stephanie Turner is the Greenwood County Horticultural Officer for Clemson Cooperative Extension.

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