Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Don't be sweet

The bees are really bad this year,” someone said the other day.

He was wrong on two counts. Bees are rarely bad. Nearly all of the 3,300 species of bees in North America provide a service without which we would be very uncomfortable. They pollinate flowers, which produce most of the fruits and many of the vegetables we eat.

Of course, he was not speaking of bees, but of wasps, the yellowjackets, which are so common at this time of year. Because it's yellow and looks something like a bee, it is a “bee” to many people. It's a bad rap for the bees.

Yellowjackets become so pesky in late summer and autumn because workers are seeking sweets for the new crop of queens, the only ones who will overwinter. Unlike most bees that limit their foraging to flowers, yellowjackets are drawn to anything sweet: the perfume you're wearing, the soap you used, the food you're eating.

If you are annoyed by yellowjackets and especially if you're sensitive to their sting, shun perfumes, hairsprays or scented laundry products; use unscented soaps; don't drink sodas or eat fruit outdoors; and stay away from fallen apples and other sugary fruits. In other words, don't be sweet.

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