It is hard to believe that a small insect could actually hold the key to humanity’s survival. Nevertheless, when it comes to the humble bee, this is certainly the case. In fact, the bee has been classed as the ‘most important living being on this planet’ according to the Royal Geographic Society of London. Furthermore, if bees were to become extinct, humanity would not be far behind! So, with the importance of the survival of the bee firmly established, the question of can beekeeping save bees becomes ever more relevant.
Why are Bees So Important?
Most people simply do not appreciate the importance of bees, but as mentioned above, without them humanity would simply not survive. The relationship between bees and flowering plants is one that has helped the evolution of humans. With 75% of the crops that produce fruits and seeds partly or wholly influenced by pollination, it is not really hard to see why humans depend so much on the bee.
A sharp decline in the population of bees can affect the food crops that thousands upon thousands of other bird and animal species eat. As well as this, without bees to pollinate crops, our supply of foods such as apples, tomatoes, and almonds would suffer. So too would crops like cocoa and coffee. We would also lose our supply of honey.
With crops that are dependent on bee pollination worth up to $577 billion annually, it is easy to see how valued the bee actually is. Moreover, because it is virtually impossible to use artificial means to replicate the work done by the bee, it is vital that we work hard to ensure the survival of this little marvel of an insect. This is where beekeeping can help.
Is Beekeeping a Way to Save the Bee?
In areas where flowers are plentiful, it is great to see more people becoming beekeepers. These individuals are helping the honeybee to survive. What many do not realise though is that there are actually thousands of bee species, and most of these do not live in hives.
In fact, there are more than 20,000 species of bee, varying in size from a tiny 2mm to a quite large 4cm. Beekeeping typically centres around the honeybee for obvious reasons, but many more bees are actually ‘wild’ and are often in direct competition for pollen with the honeybee.
In an area where there are vast numbers of flowers, a high number of honeybees is not a huge problem. However, where flowering plants are more sparse, the wild bee tends to lose out to the honeybee. While lots of people might not think this a problem, the reality is that honeybees will collect the pollen and transport it back to their hives. They do not usually transfer much of it to the flowers they are visiting, which affects the reproduction of the wild plants. It is therefore vitally important that both honeybees and wild bees be protected.
How to Protect Wild Bees
While beekeeping is a fantastic hobby that will help to ensure the survival of the honeybee, there are things that can be done to protect other bee species too. One of the best things an average person with a garden can do is fill it with flowers that bees will love. Those plants rich in nectar and pollen include lavender, lilac, mint honeysuckle, poppies, sunflowers, and wisteria.
You can also help wild bees by providing places for them to nest. Some bee species like to nest in cavities in buildings or in old plant stems. If you do not have such spaces, you can buy a bee hotel. Or better yet, build your own. Bees like tunnels, so effectively a bee hotel can be a box filled with holes, or ‘tunnels’, in which they can lay their eggs. Bamboo cane is a fantastic material for the tunnels. You can find some fantastic bee hotels online if DIY is not your strong point. Click here for a selection from Amazon.
Another way to protect wild bees is to reduce your use of household pesticides. Wildflowers are often ‘dealt with’ by products such as weed killer; the reality though is that these fast growing ‘weeds’ are actually rich in pollen and nectar and great for bees. Dandelion and clover in your lawn are also attractive to bees, but a bee won’t thank you if you cut the grass every few days! Not cutting the grass as often could increase the number of bees you see in your garden. It will also mean you are doing your bit to help the bee survive.