Importance of Honey Bees
Forget about honey, pollen and royal jelly. Just think of a world without beans, tomatoes, onions and carrots. Not to mention the hundreds of other vegetables, oil-seeds and fruits that are dependent upon Honey bees for pollination. And the livestock that are dependent upon bee-pollinated forage plants, such as clover.
Bees are some of the hardest working creatures on the planet. No human activity could ever replace the work of Honey bees. We owe many thanks to this amazing yet often underappreciated insect. It is often not realized just how easy it is to help or hinder their effectiveness as crop pollinators nor how much is lost by their loss.
Types of Bees
There are around 25,000 different types of bee species worldwide. Around 4,000 are present in the U.S. This huge number is divided into over 4,000 genera of bees, which are then further subdivided into 09 families of of bees.
The Apidae family is perhaps the most well-known family, with familiar members such as the honeybee, carpenter bee, and bumblebee.
Honey Bees and the Economy
In 2008, the British Bee Keepers Association estimates that bees make a significant contribution to the £165 million annually generated for the UK economy through pollination by insects, with the figure put at £200 million in 2009 by the UK’s Public Accounts Committee.
Many flowering and food crops in the UK rely on honey bees for this service, for example: apples, pears, field beans, runner and dwarf beans, broad beans, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and oil seed rape, with 39 commercial crops reliant on bees in total.
Even if a crop is not directly pollinated by a honey bee, the crop still benefits indirectly from being in an environment in which honey bees are working, due to the increased biodiversity in the area which stimulates the crop.
Bees Important to Crops
One out of every three bites of food we eat is a result of pollinators like honey bees. And crops like blueberries and cherries are 90 per cent dependent on pollination. Honey bees are so important that farmers often have bee hives transported and then placed on their farm to provide pollination for their crops.
Things we learn from bees
- Bees are pollinators vital to our food chain. One third of the food we eat would not be available but for bees.
- Bees, like other insects, are part of a food chain.
- The social life of the honey bee colony provides a controversial start to thinking about the structure of societies.
- The tools that have evolved on the limbs and mouth-parts of bees are neat examples of adaptation and engineering.
- The harvest from honey bees of honey, pollen, wax and propolis has nutritional, craft, manufacturing, and medical applications.
- Pollination by bees is important for genetic sustainability. Genes that have evolved in other animals are important to our future.
Survival of Bees
Bees are in danger of disappearing from our environment. Farming practices continue to disturb natural habitats. The honey bee is under attack from the varroa mite and it is only the treatment and care provided by beekeepers that is keeping colonies alive.
It’s a coexistence that needs to be protected. Honey bees need healthy crops and healthy crops need honey bees. In fact, the involvement of honey bees in the growth of crops is essential for farmers to maintain their livelihood. It’s also necessary for people to keep enjoying the foods they love. That’s why it’s so important to keep their hives healthy and why farmers are so invested in their thriving presence across the country.