We may not notice bees very often as they buzz around our environment but there are many important ways in which they are vital to our world.
Bees pollinate plants
Bees are vital pollinators, so what exactly is pollination? In order to grow, flowering plants (including those that produce vegetables and trees) need some pollen from the male part of the flower to be spread to the female part. This transfer from the anther to the stigma is called pollination. When bees move from flower to flower searching for nectar, pollen is caught on their furry bodies and legs. They leave grains of it on the next plant which helps the plants to germinate (grow).
The work of bees produces food
The plants that bees pollinate produce food for humans and animals. Other insects also pollinate plants but bees are the most efficient and pollinate about 70 of the 100 crop species that feed most of the world (90%). To thrive, we need varied, nutrient-rich diets which we now take for granted. Food security is a hot topic and bees are key to maintain our food supply. Protecting bees (and other pollinators) is the best way, as identified by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), to support sustainable farming.
Non-food products rely on bees
Cotton comes from flowering plants; some are self-pollinating but others need the help of bees. The presence of bees leads to an average 10% increase in the self-pollinating plants. 29 million tons of cotton are produced every year (worldwide). Palm oil plants in certain areas are pollinated by bees (in other areas different insects do this job). The damage to the environment caused by the production of cotton and palm oil is well-documented (including threatening bees) but is relied on by much of the world for the foreseeable future.
Bees play a vital role in the Eco-system
Wild plants, that produce fruit, nuts, seeds, berries and other food for creatures in the wild, depend on pollination by bees and other insects too. If these plants disappear then so will the animals that depend on them.
Five ways to help bees
- Ensure you buy good honey from companies that work directly with ethical beekeepers.
- Support sustainable agriculture by buying organic food especially fruit and vegetables.
- Plant a bee-friendly balcony or garden to increase the habitat where bees can thrive.
- Don’t use chemical pesticides and herbicides (or rely on pest control companies that use them).
- Protect swarms – if you find one, don’t call pest control, call a beekeeper.