MIAMI VALLEY, Ohio (WDTN) – Bees: often overlooked as ‘just another bug,’ these insects lead fascinating lives full of their own intricacies, and their own struggles.

To celebrate World Bee Day, spoke with the Miami Valley Regional Director for the Ohio State Beekeepers Association.

Rich Stewart is a ‘Sideliner’ beekeeper, which means that while beekeeping isn’t his only job, he is so much more than a hobbyist. With about 12 years under his belt and over 200 colonies, he has plenty of experience working with these insects.

Stewart explains that bees are unique in that each hive operates as a unit. And much like any dog or horse, each unit needs careful tending to. Each hive can even have its own personality, he said. Some are aggressive, while others are more tame, but all of them need detailed care.

If your dog has fleas, you’d give him a flea collar, Stewart said. It’s the same way with caring for bees. Hives can catch diseases or parasites just like any pet or livestock can. This also means that hives may not be the best choice for someone just looking to casually help bees out.

In fact, inexperienced beekeepers can often be one of the biggest dangers to bees. If one does not pay attention to their hive, Stewart says this leaves the bees susceptible to problems like disease.

Another significant issue comes with the lack of habitat. As farms and cities move in, and more pesticides are used, bees are having a harder time finding pollen.

Everything bees produce is beneficial, Stewart said, from the honey we use to sweeten tea or toast, to their pollination abilities, even down to the bees’ venom, which is sometimes used to treat arthritis. All of these depend on these little bugs.

So how can we help?

For those who have the space, Stewart recommends planting pollination plots with wildflowers the bees can use. He says you can easily pick up a Burpee pollinator mix that will not only feed bees but also butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators.

For those truly insistent on setting up their own hives, Stewart has one question:

“Why?” he asks. “What’s your goal?”

If you’re setting up a hive just for the sake of having one, you may do more harm than good Stewart says. If you want to set up a hive to truly learn the intricacies of caring for these unique insects, he recommends finding a mentor who has spent ten or more years in beekeeping.

Stewart is 12 years into owning his own hives, and he says he’s still learning something new all the time.

For more information on how important bees are, and what they do for us, click here.