Protect bees this World Bee Day on May 20
Where possible and within reason, adopt a more tolerant attitude to feral bee colonies in buildings, and of hived bee colonies in ones neighborhood. If we want bees, we need to make space for them.
– Dr. David Heaf, The Bee-friendly Beekeeper
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A world without bees would be void of flowers and food. In fact, it would be void of all living things. Bees are essential to the ecosystem and a crucial component of our food supply. There’s no denying the buzzing busy bees deserve at least one annual day of recognition for all they do, so mark your calendar for May 20 and join in the celebration.
Why are bees important?
There are around 20,000 kinds of bees in the world, and many of them get a bad rep as pests or stinging predators. But bees are a vital contributor to pollination. Effective pollination increases the amount and quality of crops, plus improves plants’ resistance to pests. Flowers rely on bees and other pollinators to do the job they can’t always do themselves — spread the seed from one plant to another. If you’re not familiar with the process, bees pick up pollen from the male part of one flower. They then transfer that pollen onto the female part of another flower, resulting in reproduction. This allows plants to produce fruits and seeds.
Simply put, without bees, this essential link in the food chain would leave a void that would starve out plants. Next to go would be all the animals who rely on plants, including humans. In short, bees are directly responsible for one-third of the world’s food. Then, of course, there is the added benefit of honey, produced by the darling of the bee world: honey bees.
Because of their importance in the production of food, bees are also an essential part of the economy, providing support for farmers small and large around the globe.
“According to the estimates of the international study conducted in 2016 by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, the annual global production of food that depends directly on pollination was worth between $235 and $577 billion,” according to WorldBeeDay.org.
Did you know?
- Honey is the only insect-produced food that humans eat.
- A honey bee visits 50 to 100 flowers every time it heads out to collect nectar.
- Bees maintain a constant temperature of 92 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit in their central brood nest, regardless of what the outside temps are.
- Bees have five eyes.
- They can fly at speeds of 15 to 20 miles per hour.
- The buzzing sound bees make is caused by the rapid flapping of wings — an unimaginable rate of over 11,000 times per minute.
- Only female bees sting.
Why are bees in danger?
In recent years, scientists noted an alarming decrease in the number of bees. Annual counts showed a reduction of up to 30% year over year. While much of the conversation is on honey bees, dozens of bee species are in decline around the world. Extensive research has uncovered some primary causes for the decline as well as factors scientists expect to create continued trouble for bees.
Climate change is a factor for bees, as it is for the rest of the plants and animals in the ecosystem. The loss of habitat is also affecting the bees. The introduction of non-native plant species, especially invasive plants, is another big problem. Similar to the issues wild fish endure with the release of hatchery-growth fish, native bees are being introduced to diseases from commercially-managed bees and the practice changes the natural diversity of the bee population. Perhaps the most notable issue, however, is the use of pesticides with bees directly ingesting the toxins.
How you can help the bees
As mentioned, bees are great for the food supply as a whole, but they’re also wonderful backyard companions. They provide pollination for wild and domestic plants like fruit trees, berry bushes and the vegetable garden. So what you do in your own yard can benefit you at a hyper-local level, a.k.a. your own garden.
To help the bees, always plant native plants. You can find them online, in a local nursery or through the county extension office. You can also take cuttings from wilderness areas or from members of the community. Be sure to emphasize nectar-bearing flowering plants for the bees to enjoy. Preserve the blooms as long as possible by postponing mowing meadows and other areas with flowering plants until after the blooms have died off.
Another way to draw in the benefits bees provide is to create a cozy home for them. You can buy or make bee houses or even take up beekeeping with hives. For a fun and decorative touch, check out Mason bee houses.
Since pesticides are a significant concern, help the bees by committing to only buying organic foods. Additionally, find alternatives to bee-harming pesticides in your own yard.
Finally, support the beekeeping industry by buying local honey and other hive products such as wax, pollen, royal jelly, propolis and venom.
This year, salute bees by sharing information with others and doing something good for our buzzing buddies. Happy World Bee Day!
Via World Bee Day