Most of us have had a run in with the bees, times that left us with sting or two. My first memory of the stinging part came when I was sitting in some bushes in front of my house, concealing myself from a bunch of neighborhood kids playing hide and seek. I accidentally became that girl in the book, the one who kicked the hornet’s nest. (OK. I know hornets aren’t bees, but the idea is the same. Wee stinging creatures that attack when agitated.) In any case, those hornets surrounded me, then crawled into my clothes and all over my skin. I yelped and ran into the house, frantically trying to get them to stop stinging me, doing my own version of Riverdance in the process.
As this was in the 60s, no one seemed upset. No one said, “Maybe we should take her to the doctor, just in case,” despite the 17 or so stings I suffered. Back then kids just had to suck it up. The motto in my house was, “If it doesn’t bleed it doesn’t hurt.”.
I mention this event because I understand many people have a visceral reaction to bees and their stinging cousins. But we need to reconsider, because without bees and their brethren, we humans could die out.
Really. People could starve, because here in the U.S., honey bees alone pollinate $30 billion worth of crops every year. Bees, their fuzzy bodies laden with pollen, promote the growth of all sorts of plants that other creatures depend on, as well. Without the pollinating skills of bees, those plants will die out and the animals that depend on them will too, and then the dominos will fall.
Our planet, that’s now pushing eight billion residents, could face severe food shortages, if we don’t take care of our bee brothers and their insect cousins. To put it simply, if all the bees in the world suddenly disappeared, it’s estimated that our supermarkets would provide half the fruit and vegetables they do today, and while those in first-world countries might survive, those in third-world nations would suffer depleted food sources. I mention this because, while researching my new book Wild horses on the Salt, I learned about beekeeping and the good the little guys do. I also came to understand that many of the world’s insects – a group of creatures that don’t give folks the warm and fuzzies and that few people march to protect – are dying out at alarming rates.
I recall a day in the Arizona desert when a strange sound made me look into the sky. A dark cloud approached, moving swiftly above. A massive swarm of bees undulated, a twisting shadow of creatures looking for a new home. I’ll admit here, my heart raced at the sight. Still, I knew not to run and understood that the thousands of bees approaching could kill me. So, I crouched down in a gully and remained completely still. Then, they were above me, the buzzing like that of a helicopter. I held my breath and watched as they passed by in a huge, dark swirl, my heart pounding in my chest.
Despite my momentary fear that day, it’s my hope that we can begin to look at bees in a new light. Yes, they sting us, mostly when they feel threatened or to protect the hive. But when you consider all they do, it’s time for us to say thank you.
So, what can we do to make the world more hospitable to bees? First, farmers should try to leave some wild lands on the borders of their fields, areas with native flora that attract bees and other pollinating insects. We should think hard about using pesticides that injure bee colonies, like herbicides and fungicides and neonicotinoids, the latter of which leads to bee colony collapse disorder. Gardeners, if they want to help, can plant bee-attracting plants among their flowers and vegetables and go organic. Shoppers can buy from local producers, since small farms tend to engage in less destructive planting policies than large, commercial producers. And home owners can set up bee watering holes. The creatures work so hard at their jobs, they easily get dehydrated and need locations they can count on to get a drink when they need one.
Every little bit helps. And when you consider all they do for us, it makes sense to be a friend to the bees.
A woman flees an abusive husband
and finds hope in the wilds of the Arizona desert.
Published by Liaison – A Next Chapter Imprint
Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.
Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert and rekindles her love of art.
Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all her strength. But can she finally stop running away?
“Ms. Montgomery weaves an intricate parallel tale, portraying the struggles of one woman, and that of a lost wild stallion—both fighting to rise above the cruelty of an unkind world. Her unique writing style, incredible knowledge of her subject matter, combined with her ability to create vivid scenes of the East Valley, and particularly the Tonto National Forest and Salt River area in Arizona, takes the reader on a fascinating (and educational) journey.” —Author Margaret Millmore