Originally Published: February 25, 2013 10:28 p.m.
Albert Einstein once said that, if bees were to disappear, the human race would follow suit within a few short years. And these days, with the advent of genetically engineered crops that provide the little buzzers with diminished nutrition in their pollen, along with pesticides and herbicides and what-all else, the bee population in the United States is facing challenges that never existed in simpler times.
But perhaps the largest challenge bees must face in their quest to do their bit in spreading pollen and producing honey is, of course, us. Even those of us who are not allergic to bee stings reserve a bit of a dark space in the mind for bees, if for no other reason than that bee stings, well, they sting.
That's why it is nice to have people in our area like Cliff Deane of Dewey. He's one of those people who rush in when most others would rather run away.
Deane is a beekeeper, a retired Army officer who has made public his offer to collect bee swarms for free, if the insects are reasonably easy to get at, and for a charge if the collection is more difficult. And one of his specialties is in "reforming" Africanized bees, the aggressive sort that have from time to time become deadly in defense of the hive. Deane calms the bees down by killing the queen and replacing her with a gentler, European monarch, who through her charms transforms the entire hive population into the somewhat less productive, but far less dangerous European bees.
According to Deane, Arizona is home to about 6 million Africanized beehives between Mexico and Flagstaff, and that those hives swarm as many as 16 times more often than do their European counterparts, creating more and more dangerous hives.
Of course, most bee swarms take place out of sight of humans but, when they do come to town, they can create a frightening scene. Luckily, our local fire departments, which are often charged with protecting the public from excessive stings, is well versed in handling these situations, using lethal force only when absolutely necessary.
Bees are an important, even indispensable link in the environmental chain, yet one that most of us rarely give a second thought to. That's why it's fortunate for us that folks like Cliff Deane are among us, doing the work, collecting the honey and making sure that Einstein's dire prophesies remain just footnotes.