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Talk At USU Looks At How Bees Enrich Human Life

A green orchid bee on an orange tip of a plant.
Bob Peterson

The Science Unwrapped talk at Utah State University this month focused on bees and how they impact our lives through the foods we eat.

“I love bees! I just think they are so beautiful. I didn’t know that males didn’t sting you. That was entirely new to me,” said Cathy Clements, who attended the Science Unwrapped talk at USU this weekend.

She said she looks at bees all summer and is excited to try and find them in her garden.

She was one of the many people who attended the event to learn more about the many varieties of bees, beyond just the yellow and black, fuzzy, flying, honey-making kind with a painful sting.

Theresa Pitt-Singer, a research entomologist with the United States Department of Agriculture, said although there are over 20,000 types of bees, only a few produce the honey we eat. However, she also said all bees are pollinators and play a crucial role in agriculture.

According to Pitt-Singer, understanding bees helps agricultural scientists find ways to manage them, both for honey and for crop pollination.

“So some of those [solitary] bees we can manage just like we use honey bees out in orchards and on crop field,” said Pitt-Singer. “You get honeybees and the whole hive goes out to pollinate an orchard or we can take cocoons and release the bees from the cocoons. They'll fly out and we'll give them nesting tubes out in orchard. They're just managed very differently because it's each solo bee doing all this work.”

So why are bees important to manage? Pitt-Singer said beyond the great beauty of bees, they are very important to producing the food people eat every day.

“The plants the bees pollinate are really good in our diets because they're where we get a lot vitamins and minerals and proteins,” she said. “So they make our lives and our food more interesting and help keep us more healthy. We won't die without the bees, but it will be a boring, sickly life.”