- Bees are essential because they pollinate our food sources, produce honey, support the ecosystem, and are culturally significant.
- Bee populations are declining worldwide due to pesticide use, air pollutants, climate change, and habitat loss.
- You can support the bee population by planting a pollinator garden, building a bee shelter, supporting beekeepers that practice ethical beekeeping, and avoiding all pesticides.
Bees: The Unsung Heroes of Human Survival and Planetary Health
There are over 20,000 species of bees worldwide, including the beloved honey bee. From producing the foods that fill our kitchens to creating wellness products we use daily, these insects have a massive impact on our daily lives. So without further ado, let’s dive into the importance of bees and why we need them in our world.
4 Big Reasons We Need Bees
There's been loads of hype around saving the bees, and you might wonder why. Well, the truth is that our buzzing friends do more than make honey. So, let's take a closer look at why the bees are important (honey included!).
1. Bees pollinate food sources.
Bees are important pollinators of many of our favorite food crops. They fly from flower to flower, collecting pollen, which attaches to tiny hairs on their bodies. Then they spread the flowering plants’ pollen as they visit new plant species, pollinating as they buzz along.
The average bee visits around 1,000 to 2,000 flowers daily, providing a vital service to humans along the way.
In fact, around 35% of our worldwide food supply depends on insect pollination to some extent. However, much more of our food tends to be pollinator-dependent in the global north.
In Europe, for example, pollinators help grow around 84% of food crops. In the U.S., around 75% of food crops rely on bees — that’s more than 100 major crops — resulting in $18 billion of added value to the economy annually.
Bees also pollinate plants eaten by cattle and other livestock, including alfalfa and clover. So even when they aren’t pollinating plants that go directly onto your plate, they’re often contributing to the production of other foods you eat daily.
Of course, not all pollinators are bees. Some are birds, bats, or other insects like butterflies and wasps, and we need all of these pollinators for effective food production.
Yet, make no mistake — bees play a defining role in worldwide crop pollination, offering food security worldwide.
Here are just a few of the popular foods pollinated by bees:
- And so much more!
So next time you’re browsing your local produce aisle, consider the importance of bee pollination in the wide variety of nutritional choices we have.
2. Bees produce honey and other precious substances.
Not only do bees pollinate our food, but honeybees, in particular, give us so much more — the honey and other precious substances that have been used nutritionally and medicinally by humans for thousands of years.
In the U.S. alone, $700 million worth of honeybee products are sold yearly. For a closer look at some of the most popular bee products, take a look at the brief sections below.
Honey is a sweet substance created by bees, made primarily from nectar. Honey is reported to have nutrients with antioxidant, natural cleansing, and wellness-supporting effects.
Honey is also extremely popular as a natural sweetener and alternative to refined table sugar. Surprisingly, there are more than 94 million honeybee hives worldwide, producing around 1.77 million metric tons of honey annually.
Beeswax is a mix of organic compounds secreted by the glands of honeybees, and it’s used to build comb. Humans also use it for cosmetics, weatherproofing, fuel, candle making, and more.
Other Valuable Bee Products:
- Bee bread or bee pollen
- Royal jelly
- Bee venom
3. Bees Support the Entire Ecosystem
Beyond pollinating our food and giving us nutritious honey, bees also support the entire ecosystem. Around 90% of the world’s flowers rely on pollinators. That includes many beneficial plants that may not provide humans food but do provide animals and other creatures food and shelter.
4. Bees Are Culturally and Historically Significant
The importance of our relationship with bees cannot be overstated. From 8,000-year-old cave paintings to mentions in important religious texts, bees have remained culturally and historically significant within human culture and religion.
Bee symbolism has even been used by the ancient Egyptians and Minoans, Greek and Roman mythologists, and even Renaissance painters. We now know that humans have been working with bees for at least 9,000 years.
Why Are Bee Populations Declining?
Bee populations are in decline, causing alarm among environmental experts, beekeepers, and nature lovers alike.
In April 2021, a survey of U.S. beekeepers found that 45.5% of managed honeybee colonies were lost in the previous year, the highest percentage since the survey’s founding in 2006.
Further, around one in six bee species is regionally extinct, and another 40% of bee species are vulnerable to extinction. Even the humble American bumblebee is in trouble, declining 89% in recent years.
So let’s talk about some of the biggest reasons bee populations are declining:
Pesticides: Bees are exposed to harmful pesticides through the air, water, and soil. Pesticides can negatively impact bee reproduction, navigation, learning, feeding, and even the ability to recognize their nests.
Air pollutants: Studies have shown that air pollutants can interact with scent molecules released by plants. Since bees use these scents to locate wildflowers and other plants, this ultimately confuses them and makes it more challenging for them to forage, causing bee decline.
Climate change: Heavy rainfall, wildfires, floods, extreme temperatures, and drought can all have a significant effect on bees and their behavior. Plus, climate change could allow more parasites and pathogens to infect bee populations.
- Habitat loss and biodiversity loss: With half of the world’s land now developed — much of it supporting intensive farming practices — bee habitats are fragmenting or, in some cases, disappearing altogether.
How Could Declining Bee Populations Affect Humans?
Without bees, we’d likely see a decline in the variety of available foods — and some foods almost entirely pollinated by bees — like cherries, blueberries, and almonds — might disappear altogether. Of course, many pollinator crops can be hand pollinated, but doing so is difficult and expensive, which could drive up food prices.
Beyond that, the loss of bees carries a ripple effect throughout the ecosystem. In one way or another, thousands of wild plant species and habitats are affected by bee survival. That’s because bees are keystone species. Their survival is intertwined with our own.
Is There Anything That Can Be Done To Help the Bees?
Absolutely. Here’s what we’re doing, and what you can do, too.
Manukora is committed to ethical beekeeping, and protecting our environment and the bees that help it thrive. Healthier and happier bees bring more than just incredible honey; they also pollinate, helping to support native plants and trees.
What Manukora Does To Protect Bees
Manukora is committed to supporting the health and happiness of our bees. This is seen not only in the high-quality honey our bees produce but in their healthy population numbers. Manukora is investing heavily into bee health. This is through the development of ethical beekeeping practices throughout the operations in New Zealand and supporting organizations such as Pollinator Partnership to protect and grow awareness for pollinators across the USA.
With our master beekeepers, we have, and continue to develop The Art of Ethical Beekeeping which has several aspects:
Restoring bee-friendly, native forests along waterways.
Never using pesticides or chemicals in our beekeeping practices. Our Manuka honey is tested for glyphosate residue and other environmental toxins to ensure purity.
Keeping beehive numbers low and ensuring the bees have access to diverse pollen sources and lots of nectar.
Leaving enough honey on the beehives for the bees to eat all winter long.
Keeping our hives in remote areas that are free from environmental toxins and campaigning for spray free ecosystems.
- Ensuring the bees aren’t shifted around or moved, which disturbs them.
Our honey can even be traced to a single origin, backed by QR authentication. Simply scan this unique QR code with your smartphone to learn about the hive itself, the beekeeper responsible, and the potency and quality of the honey you hold.
What Can You Do To Save the Bees?
Here are a few ways you can support your local bee population and your local food security:
Plant a pollinator garden that offers food and shelter to bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, and more.
Build a “bee hotel” for local wild bees and solitary bees.
Support sustainability through honey companies employing ethical beekeeping practices.
- Avoid using pesticides and other harmful chemicals in your yard and garden.
Bees play an integral role in pollinating our food, with around 35% of worldwide food crops relying on these pollinators in some way. They are also responsible for pollinating many non-food crops that contribute to biodiversity and overall ecosystem health.
Manukora supports the bee population by focusing on ethical beekeeping practices, which ultimately is what’s behind our high-quality, authentic Manuka honey.
Sources:Building and Managing Bee Hotels for Wild Bees | MSU