The summer picnic most often comprises a lovely day spent lounging on the grass, soaking up the sun, and enjoying a well-packed meal and the company of your friends and family (and those six-legged flying moochers ready to prey on your feast!). This time of year, bees are busy seeking out sweet smells and potent flowers. All too often they find their way not to a delectable blossom, but to your al fresco fruit salad. Here are a few suggestions to safely keep the Apidae out of your summer salad.
1. Play keep-away. Unlike mosquitoes, bees are not attracted to the smell of humans but rather to the sweet scents of their perfume, hair products, lotion, and deodorant.
- Avoid bee attention by wearing unscented products.
- Use an insect repellent to mask the scents. Natural repellents use citrus, mint, and eucalyptus oils.
- Dryer sheets also make effective insect repellents: tuck one in your pocket if you’re hiking or place a few under your picnic blanket.
2. Practice the art of disguise. You can mask not only the scent of your perfumes, but also that of your food with a little clever camouflage.
- Scatter cloves or mint across your table or blanket.
- Another idea is to set a pot or two of marigolds on the table. They look like pretty centerpieces, but their scent repels bees as well.
3. Cover up. Use lids for your food containers and your beverages. Keep trash bags or cans tightly closed as well. This will help reduce the wafting aromas that might entice these pesky insects. The scent of barbecue not only brings people to your party, it is especially compelling for bees and wasps as well, so keep that under wraps as much as possible.
4. Bait and switch. Set out a bowl or cup with some flat soda, fruit juice, maple syrup, or sugar water a few yards away from your picnic. Bees are attracted to the sugary scent and will pursue this instead of your lunch. If possible, set out the bee bait 20 minutes or so before you begin your picnic because the bees will communicate the location of the sugary food to one another. If you are using a soda bottle, remove the label so that no one but the bees tries to drink from it.
5. Set a simply dressed table. Avoid bright colors and floral prints for your tablecloth, picnic blanket, and even your clothing. Bees notice bright hues as well as sweet smells. If something looks like a tropical flower, you can bet that curious bees will come to investigate.
6. Do a little housekeeping. If you are entertaining at home and have unwanted bees on your property, eradicate their hiding places. Bees like tall grass for ground nests and quiet places such as unused play structures and sheds for hives. If you find a hive, call a professional instead of trying to tackle it on your own. A professional will be able to determine the species and create an action plan from there. The honey bee population is decreasing rapidly, which is bad news for humanity as they pollinate the plants we love and depend on. A pest professional or local beekeeper might be able to remove your bee problem without destroying a colony that potentially could be of natural use somewhere else.
Fun Bee Facts
Bees are a vital link in the food chain, and life as we know and enjoy it would not exist without them.
- In addition to their services as pollinators for innumerable food crops, bees provide us with honey, propolis, and wax for a number of uses from industrial to cosmetic.
- They are a symbol of industry (“busy bees”) and represented the lower half of the ancient Egyptian empire: one of the names for a Pharaoh was “He of Sedge and Bee.”
- Bees have even been featured in the mythology of classical Greece and the literature of Virgil, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, and Marx.
So, enjoy your picnic and outdoor activities this summer, but in light of their importance and their fragile hold on the ecosystem these days, prepare accordingly so that you and the bees maintain distance. If you ever notice a bee hive on or near your property, call a professional right away.