Many people are afraid of bees and experience a moment or two of internal panic when a bee comes too close because they’re scared they’ll get stung. But the truth about bees is that they aren’t out with an agenda to sting as many people as possible. They’re simply buzzing about performing their jobs, which benefit us way more than most people think. Bees provide us with honey, which we eat and we use their wax for different things. Bees also help our flowers and plants to continue growing. Millions of people every day benefit in some way from bees, so it’s only fair to continue to learn as much about bees, their habits and the ways in which they help us as much as we can.
Bees are extraordinary creatures that exist in all types of climates around the world, from forests in Europe to deserts in Africa. But worldwide bee populations are in decline, including the honey bee and many of our wild native bees. For much of the past ten years, beekeepers primarily in the United States and Europe, have been reporting annual hive losses of 25 percent or higher, substantially more than is considered normal or sustainable. In fact, one in four wild bee species in the world is at risk of extinction. So we must protect them as much as possible.
The most important job that bees perform is a process called pollination. During this process, bees carry pollen from one plant to another or from one flower to another. Bees pollinate nearly 85% of the food crops that humans eat and they also pollinate many of the crops that are used to feed cattle. If bees no longer existed, our food supply would considerably diminish and our nourishment would be lacking. Most people don’t stop to consider all the things that bees do for us and they don’t consider that if we didn’t have bees to pollinate our crops, we would be in big trouble. We would then have to figure out how to pollinate crops without the help of bees and that wouldn’t be an easy feat.
The Pollination Process
Bees take the pollen from one plant and transfer it to another plant. Jumping from one plant or flower to the next results in pollen sticking to the legs of the bees. That pollen is taken back to the hive and given to the younger bees to eat. Pollen is essentially food for bees. It gives them energy which allows them to fly for longer periods of time and to go further distances to collect and distribute the pollen.
Because bees perform this very important job, our crops continue to grow and provide us with the fruits and vegetables that we eat every single day. Bees help our crops to reproduce. Without bees, the crops would be unable to reproduce as quickly and they would die out much faster. There are many species of solitary bees that have evolved to pollinate one specific type of plant. If these bees didn’t spend their entire lives devoted to pollinating this one specific type of plant, it would stop reproducing and would eventually die out.
Effects of the Environment
The environment plays a huge role in the longevity of bees’ lives. Many species of bees have died each year from things like diseases, pesticides and parasites. As crops are destroyed by natural disasters and environmental influences, the bees that feed off and pollinate those crops die out too. As the bees die out, the remaining crops that these bees were responsible for are unable to be pollinated so they die as well. It’s another important factor in the cycle of life of all the living things on Earth that must be taken into consideration.
Climate change is another factor that impacts bees as well. As the climate changes, bees are unable to survive in the same way they did before, so they begin to die or they have to move to different areas where the climate is better suited for them. This of course, impacts the reproduction of the crops that the bees were responsible for.
The number one thing that bees are known for is honey production. Bees supply us with honey, which millions of people eat every single day. Honey has many health benefits. It’s often used as a sweetener in place of sugar and high fructose corn syrup because it’s much healthier than the latter two options. Honey has been consumed by humans for thousands of years. Egyptian hieroglyphics were discovered that depicted honey being harvested from a hive. Very old paintings have been discovered that show the importance of the honeybee and the honey they produce. Honey isn’t just used for eating. It’s also used as an ingredient in several products that we use daily. Honey is known to have healing properties, so it’s often used in lotions that promote healing of the skin.
Beeswax is a natural wax produced by honey bees of the genus Apis. The wax is formed into scales by eight wax producing glands in the abdominal segments of worker bees, which discard it in or at the hive. The hive workers collect and use it to form cells for honey storage and larval and pupal protection within the beehive. Chemically, beeswax consists mainly of esters of fatty acids and various long chain alcohols. Most people are familiar with beeswax candles, but beeswax has been used for making several other products as well. Beeswax is used in a variety of polishes and hair products. It has been known for its ability to be a protectant and natural preservative.
Honey has been known to have a variety of health benefits because of its antibacterial properties. Honey and beeswax both contain propolis, which is a byproduct that is an antibacterial agent. This agent is known to help fight off infections and bacteria, which is helpful for treating and healing wounds. For instance, when you have a sore throat, it’s probably been suggested to drink hot tea with honey. Additionally, honey is one of the main ingredients in traditional medicine for treating sore throat, hay fever, seasonal allergies and cough.
Honey bees play an enormous role in producing the highest quality fruits and vegetables that we grow and consume. Out of the 115 leading agricultural crop plants worldwide, 75% or 87 of them depend on or at least benefit from animal pollination. This is a huge portion of important crops that require bees and other animal pollinators for their reproduction. Aside from the abundance of gifts that bees offer for the production and quality of our food, keeping honey bees can also deliver us valuable and nutritional benefits from the materials and substances that they gather and produce. We use honey and beeswax in a variety of products including food, medicine and cosmetics. However, we would not have honey and beeswax without the hard work of bees. So, the next time a bee is buzzing around you, remember the important role it has and how you benefit from it in the long run.
Honey Bee Facts
- There are 7 species and 44 subspecies of honey bees known to inhabit the world.
- The Africanized bee also known as the killer bee is a hybrid of the European honey bee species.
- Apis cerana is native to Asia and Apis mellifera is native to Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
- Apis dorsata or the giant honey bee is among the largest species of bees found in the world.
- Cape honey bee workers can lay female eggs while workers of other subspecies can only lay male eggs.
- The queen bees can live up to 5 years.
- A honey bee visits 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip.
- Honey has always been highly regarded as a medicine. It’s thought to help with everything from sore throats and digestive disorders to skin problems and hay fever.
- The natural fruit sugars in honey fructose and glucose are quickly digested by the body.
- Only worker bees and queen bees have stingers.