Why Bees Are Important to Our Lifestyle
Bees contribute to our lifestyle in many ways. Honey bees produce honey that they share with us. They also make beeswax that is used for so many purposes. But those are not the only reasons why bees are important.
Bees are insects. Some of them live in large communities, such as our honey bees. A honey bee colony population ranges into the tens of thousands.
Others, like the Bumble bee, maintain smaller numbers in the nest. And some are solitary bees that go it alone.
Each type of bee fulfills an important niche in the ecosystem. You can read more in my post: (Types of Bees We Love)
Let’s examine one of the most popular types of insect – the honey bee (apis mellifera). These bees collect plant nectar so they can make honey.
This is a rather remarkable process, if you want to know more read – How Bees Make Honey.
The goal of a honey bee colony is survival. That survival depends on the production of honey. Bees store honey in order to survive over the cold Winter months.
During that time no fresh nectar is available. And, our cold blooded insects couldn’t fly out to get it either. A lot of food must be stored before cold arrives.
Luckily for us, honey bees are hard workers. Healthy colonies in a good location can produce a great deal of honey. A much larger crop than they need for Winter.
A rough estimate for honey production in the United States shows a 50#-60# harvest per colony.
A small portion of this honey harvest will be consumed in its raw form. But honey is more than just a natural alternative to refine sugar.
The majority of the United States honey harvest is sold to the food industry. Here is it used for every edible product imaginable.
Beeswax – A Valuable Hive Product
Often overlooked, beeswax is a very valuable hive product. In fact, beeswax is worth more per ounce than honey.
Beeswax is secreted by young adults and used to create their honeycomb structure inside the hive.
When honey is harvested, the beeswax caps are removed to allow liquid honey to flow from the comb. These beeswax cappings are cleaned (or rendered) and used in many applications.
Making beeswax candles is a common practice among beekeepers. However, the uses for beeswax are practically endless.
From cosmetics to furniture polish, beeswax is a product that must not be overlooked.
Local beekeepers often sell their excess wax to help regain some of the costs of keeping their hives.
Pollination By Bees
This bring us to the most important reason why bees are important. Pollination.
Insect pollination plays a large role in the biodiversity of our world. And bees play the biggest role in food production in our country.
In plant reproduction, the flower is the equivalent of an egg. The egg (flower) should develop into a fruit . Then a seed is produced that will grow into a new plant.
Most flowers need to receive pollen from another flower in order to bear fruit. They require pollination.
In order to attract insects, these plants produce showy flowers and secrete sweet nectar.
Hopefully, bees and other pollinators will be lured to the bloom. As they move from flower to flower, pollen is inadvertently moved from one to the next.
However, many plants (including grasses and some trees) are wind pollinated.
Their light weight pollen blows through the air to other blossoms. They do not need bees or insects to aid in pollination.
Hence, the statement that “without bees we will starve” just doesn’t have substance.
Major crops such as corn, wheat, rice and soybeans are wind pollinated. They do not rely on bee pollination.
Only 10%-15% of all human food sources are pollinated by honey bees. No, we would not starve but we may get tired of eating the same thing.
Pollen is the only source of protein for the bee colony. Both honey bees and bumble bees collect pollen in order to raise young.
The use of bee pollen as a food supplement for humans dates back to the Middle Ages. It is thought to aid in allergy relief and good general health.
People used to get pollen when they consumed honey. However today, most commercial honey has been filtered to the point that pollen is removed.
Local beekeepers and large commercial companies collect and sell bee pollen.
Honey Bee Importance in Modern Agriculture
In the United States, a very small percentage of people produce food. Modern agriculture practices are based on the idea of specialization.
Huge fields of a single crop are the most economical way to produce food.
When a large crop field is in bloom, a huge number of pollinators are needed quickly. The bloom will not last forever.
No area would have enough native pollinators to get the job done in time.
This is when the pollination efforts of insects become so important. Honey bees and Bumble Bees practice flower fidelity.
This means that on a given foraging flight they like to visit the same type of flower. This enhances pollination by moving pollen between the same type of flower.
Honey bees are particularly suited for agriculture purposes. In addition to practicing flower fidelity, they live in large family groups.
Also, their hives can be easily transported from one location to another.
Farmers that grow almonds, apples, apricots, black berries, cherries, peaches, plums, raspberries, strawberries and more rely on honey bee pollination.
Bees Benefit Plant Diversity for Wildlife
Most native plants are wind pollinated. However, a few do benefit from bee pollination.
Areas with beehives in residence have more diverse food for wildlife. Native iinsectss contribute to this effort as well.
In years past, honey bees aided greatly in the pollination of fruits for wildlife. This was before the influx of the varroa mite, wiped out practically all the wild colonies.
Why Bees are Dying?
Researchers confirm a sharp decline in many pollinator species in recent years.
This problem affects all pollinators including our honey bees (apis mellifera). Why are the bees in trouble?
Is the great pollinator decline a product of environmental contamination with pesticides, herbicides etc? Does climate change play a role? Scientist do not know the definitive answer.
However, it is clear that we need these valuable insects. We want the biodiversity that pollinators provide. Our food production model depends on the health of our pollinators.
Bees are important. Let’s do everything we can to save the bees and reap the benefits of a bee-utiful world for years to come.