Our bee population is in decline, and without bees, many plants will not be pollinated to provide us with fruits and veggies. So, there has been a huge international movement to save the bees, specifically honeybees. That’s great! It’s a very important undertaking.
Bees do indeed pollinate, at least in part, much of the food we like to eat, including apples, oranges, berries, almonds, broccoli, and avocados, to name but a few. According to the NRDC (National Resource Defense Council), bees are credited with pollinating over $15 billion worth of crops a year and producing $150 million worth of honey.
But, it’s important to also realize that bees are more valuable than the revenue that they enable. They are integral parts of wild ecosystems and small home gardens, not just large-scale agricultural businesses. If bees are truly going to be our friends, we have to see them as more than a means to an end.
1. Honeybees are not the only bees we need to be saving.
While honeybees are getting the most press, they are not the only bees. In fact, there are plenty of bees that help with pollination but don’t produce honey at all. This diverse population of wild bees, as opposed to cultivated honeybees, is very important in this movement. These bees need our attention and efforts just as much as honeybees do.
2. Honeybees are often shipped all over the U.S. to pollinate crops.
The agricultural industry has become dependent on honeybees in a most unnatural way. Whereas wild populations used to be sufficient for pollinating crops, nowadays, hives of honeybees are boxed and shipped like cargo around the nation to pollinate almonds in California, blueberries in Maine, squashes in Texas, citrus in Florida, and so on.
3. Many bees don’t have the “hive” mentality but are, in fact, loners.
Though bees are largely associated with honey and hives, the reality is that most bees — about 90% — are solitary and don’t produce honey. The nice thing about these types of bees is that they aren’t nearly as aggressive about protecting a queen, hive, and honey stockpiles. These bees just go about their pollinating.
4. Not all bees sting.
Not all bees sting, either. There are even honeybees that are stingless. Actually, there are about 600 species of stingless honeybees, and they live all over the tropical areas of the world. The honey they produce has a higher water content and the amount produced is minuscule compared with European honeybees. These stingless honeybees are the smallest species of bees.
5. It’s not just pesticides that are causing bees’ populations to dwindle.
While pesticides have been fingered, and convincingly so, as a primary cause of colony collapse disorder in honeybees, pesticides are not the only culprit in the population reduction. Habitat loss through human development is a major component to decreasing numbers, and climate change has affected the blooming pattern of certain trees, leaving bees without pollen to harvest at parts of the year.
6. Bees are ancient animals present around the world.
Bees are said to be over 100 million years old, having evolved in step with the flowering plants of the Cretaceous Period. They are also endemic to every continent in the world with flowering plants (which leaves out Antarctica). Prior to pollination from bees, plants were wind-pollinated, and many — rice, corn, and wheat for starters — still are.
7. Planting a diverse garden is good for bees.
Whether it’s flowers, fruit trees, vegetables, or culinary herbs, a bountiful garden full of a multitude of flowering species makes for a bee paradise. Ironically, because of large monocultures in farmland, the more diverse gardens in urban and suburban areas are attracting wild bee populations to cityscapes. Bees don’t thrive in monocultures because all of the flowers bloom at once.
In other words, for us to really be good friends to the bees, it’s important for us to live accordingly. We need to create new habitats in which they can live, and luckily, that means growing gardens we can enjoy. We need to be aware of the effects climate change is having on spring blooms and make sure we cultivate plenty of flowers for the spring harvesting, providing bees with pollen when they need it most. And, we need to start working to change the current agricultural system that has bees trucked all over the country every year. We can do it, and if we do, we’ll benefit from it as much as the bees. BFFs!
Lead Image Source: Pixabay