Today, 20th of March, we celebrate World Bee Day and the birthday of Anton Janša. Born in Slovenia in the 18th century, he pioneered modern beekeeping techniques and greatly admired the industrious nature of these tireless insects.
BEES or not to BE
Few of us consciously realise the invaluable contributions that these animals make. It’s not just delicious honey for breakfast on our waffles or cosmetic honey masks to heal and moisturise our skin. Without bees life as we know it would not exist.
These insects are the main pollinators and are responsible for 75% of all crops that humans depend on for food. From apples to zucchinis, it’s bees that pollinate the plants and therefore make it possible for us to enjoy them.
An estimation of more than 20.000 different species of bees exist in all types of climates around the world. Not all of them live in hives, some wild bee species have their home in holes under the ground or in trees. Many species are barely researched and little is known on how they contribute to the biodiversity of various parts of this world.
Though one thing is certain, the ecosystem of this planet depends upon them.
The indispensability of bees
There are about 369.000 different flowering plant species of which 90% depend on insect pollination. On average, an ordinary honeybee can visit 50-1000 flowers in one trip. If a colony with 25.000 forager bees takes ten trips per day, they will pollinate 250 million flowers in a day. That is an industriousness unmatched by any other animal.
Bees are not only indispensable for our food, other species as well depend on them for their livelihoods. Their food sources, such as nuts, berries, seeds and fruit, rely on insect pollination. By the pollination efforts of bees habitats for animals like other insects and birds are created. Bees are a vital contributor to Earth’s biodiversity.
Threat of extinction
Many bee species already find their names on the list of endangered animals. The threats that these busy insects face are serious and all of them are driven by human activity. Some of these threats are:
- climate change
- loss of habitat
- overuse of pesticides
Close to 35% of invertebrate pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, and about 17% of vertebrate pollinators, such as bats, face extinction globally. If this sad trend continues our diets will change dramatically, resulting in less food variety, leading to nutrient imbalances and health ramifications.
The Convention of Biological Diversity has recognised the gravity and the far-reaching dimensions of this pollination crises. It has made the conservation and sustainable use of pollinators a priority.
The time to act is NOW
It’s not exaggerated to say that our livelihoods are at stake. Now the question is: What can we as individuals do to secure the continued existence of these amazing insects?
Quite a lot actually! You are contributing greatly if you are buying organic fruit, vegetables and seeds. If more people support eco-friendly farming, big and industrious mass production will become less lucrative for farmers.
Planting flowers in your garden is another way to support bees. You can even do it on your balcony or window sill. Bees are busy foraging from March to September so make sure to plant different kinds of flowers. (Though avoid ‘double-flowered’ varieties with more than one layer of petals as they contain little or no pollen or nectar and are of little interest to bees).
Lastly, when you buy honey make sure that it’s from a local beekeeper that actually cares for his or her insects. Many commercial kinds of honey are exploiting bees. For example, the honey that is meant to be food for the bees is replaced with sweeteners, or forced breeding methods are enforced on queen bees.
Let us be mindful when we enjoy the goodness in all aspects and be grateful to these FAB animals, the millions of unsung heroes that tirelessly work to keep this beautiful planet pollinated. Let us bee engaged!