For thousands of years, human cultures across the globe have depended on bees for their ability as pollinators and producers of honey and other valuable commodities. Unfortunately, bee populations have been dwindling globally over the decades due to habitat loss, intensive farming practices, excessive use of agrochemicals, and global warming. Already, their decline has had consequences for both the natural and agricultural worlds, as well as human society in general.
As pollinators, all bee species play a vital role in sustaining the planet’s ecosystems by allowing plants to fruit, set seeds, and reproduce. In this way, they create the food sources and habitats that a wide range of creatures depend on, including humans. While there are many ways for plants to be pollinated, no other pollinator has evolved to become as efficient and prolific at the role as bees have ? visiting more flowers and carrying more pollen than any other insect, bird, or small mammal. Should the bee population of an area be wiped out, it would undoubtedly upset the balance of the food chains in the ecosystem, leading to massive biodiversity loss.
This also affects our food security. According to bee experts at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, bees pollinate about 70 of the 100 crop varieties that provide 90 percent of the world’s food. Some experts say this is roughly equivalent to bees being responsible for one out of every three bites of the food that we eat. Fruit trees, nuts, coffee, berries, vegetables, and even cotton rely on bees for pollination. Without bees, farmers would be forced to manually pollinate these crops ? an extremely time-consuming practice that is already becoming ever more necessary, as pollinators continue to decline. And as the availability and diversity of fresh produce dwindle, further problems, such as an increase in food prices and nutritional deficiencies in the human diet, are likely to occur.
In addition, bees, particularly honey bees, produce substances that humans have used for an assortment of purposes since time immemorial. Honey is, of course, a popular ingredient and sweetener. But, it has also been used for its medicinal properties, such as its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits, for thousands of years. Beeswax has had an even wider variety of applications ? from candles and wax tablets to cosmetics and sealants. Meanwhile, royal jelly, propolis, and bee venom have long been valued and harvested by people for their health and cosmetic benefits.
So, what can you, as an individual, do to help preserve bees? A simple first step that anyone can take is to grow a garden filled with plants that are rich in pollen and nectar. Next, you should support your local beekeepers and environmental organizations. Other than making monetary donations, you can show your appreciation by buying locally made honey and beeswax products. Lastly, do what you can to raise awareness about the importance of bees ? whether it’s by informing your friends and family or by posting the information on social media platforms.
Yesel Kang Staff Reporter
1. What vital role do bees play as pollinators?
2. What valuable commodities do bees produce?
3. What can you do to support your local beekeepers?
1. What are three interesting facts about bees?
2. Name three pollinators other than bees.
3. How often do you use products produced by bees?
4. How would you help to save the bees?