July 10, 2023

Arrow’s D&I Speaker Series: A Don’t Step on a Bee Day Conversation with Krystle Hickman

Category: D&I Series

Author: Charlie Johnson

In July 2022, Krystle Hickman, an artist, community scientist, conservation photographer, TEDx speaker, and founder of BeeSip, sat down with Arrow Senior Living resident Carol Bales. They discussed bees and their important role in the ecosystem. 

Hickman specializes in melittology, the study of bees. Her primary focus is through artful photography. Bales, a gardener, photographer, and former photojournalist, soon found commonality in their discussion of nature’s flora and fauna. 

Krystle says her interest in bees started when she saw a quote on Facebook attributed to Einstein, “Save the bees. If the bees disappear, people disappear.” “I really got into bees through that,” she said, thinking the quote meant honeybees. “I spent longer than I want to admit on honeybees, then photographed a native bee for the first time and it opened my world,” Hickman commented.  

Krystle took her first bee photos with her cell phone. Now, Hickman specializes in macro photography, using a macro lens. “The LA Arboretum was the first place I took photos,” she recalled. “They had five species of native bees. This was the first place I saw the connection between native bees and native plants.”  

Much of her photography is done early in the morning or late in the evening. “This is a great time to photograph bees,” said Krystle. She explained that bees are cold blooded, so they are slow at those times. Male bees will sleep in flowers or on stems. “Your finger is warmer, so if you put it out, and because it is warmer, they will climb on and sit there.” 

When Carol asked Krystle which was her favorite bee, there was no hesitation. “Perdita. A little bald bee, it’s really cute. One of my goals is to find their burrows, they are very difficult to locate because they are so small. Perdita bees live in the ground and are solitary.” 

According to Hickman, there are 4,000 species of native bees in the United States and 20,000 species worldwide. But native bee populations are in decline. She explains, “There are bee populations that are potentially declining or disappearing, but we don’t have accurate records of them. One way you can tell the decline of bees is with the decline of wildflowers, because they are so closely interlinked. A lot of bees have symbiotic relationships with flowers, so if a certain species or family of flower disappears, the bee that could only drinks nectar from that flower is also likely to decline or disappear. Populations are decreasing across all flora and fauna at this moment.” 

Hickman says honeybees are like “the chickens of the bird world” and describes honeybees as “farm animals.” “They are invasive and were brought to the United States by colonizers in 1692. They outcompete native bees for resources, which we see in drought years, especially. They also spread diseases to other bees, like bumble bees,” she emphasized. 

Besides not stepping on bees, Hickman encourages everyone to plant native plants and wild flowers, which will increase the biodiversity and make for better habitat for our native bees. 

Saint Charles, Missouri-based Arrow Senior Living manages a portfolio of communities that offer varying levels of care, including independent living, assisted living, and memory care. Each and every senior living community supports residents by focusing on dignity, respect, and quality of life. The programs and amenities offered are selected to provide only the highest standard of quality and comfort.

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