You are probably well aware of – or at least heard about –the importance of bees. These little creatures are absolutely vital to the ecosystem; without them, most of the plants we eat would not survive. Although there are other pollinators – such as butterflies, wasps, and moths – the bee is by far the most important pollinator we have, and they provide billions of dollars’ worth of pollination services across the world.
Are Bees Pests?
Unfortunately, there are still many people that view bees as pests and, indeed, are actually scared of them. This is usually because they have misunderstood both the bee and its intentions. Contrary to what some individuals believe, bees do not go out of their way to sting humans and animals. In fact, the reality of the matter is that bees will only sting to defend their home, and they will only do so as a last resort. The reason for this is because once a honey bee stings, it is almost certain to die. Their stingers have barbed lancets that lodge in the skin of mammals. When a honey bee tries to fly away after stinging, the stinger is ripped from its body and left behind, at the same time pulling part of its abdomen and digestive system with it. When this happens, the bee cannot survive.
Bees are actually quite docile insects, and those we see hovering around our plants are looking for nectar and pollen to take back to the hive. The hair-like structures on their body attracts pollen when they visit flowers. When they then visit other flowers of the same species, the collected pollen brushes off and pollination occurs, allowing said plants to ‘reproduce’.
The work done by bees equates to billions of dollars’ worth to farmers across the world every year. Even with manual pollination, it is unlikely that humans could ever replicate the work of the bee. This is the reason these creatures are so essential to the natural world.
What Would Happen Without Bees?
Sadly, bees are under threat and have been declining in population for a few decades. There are many reasons for this decline including loss of habitat, climate change, loss of food sources, and exposure to pesticides. There is concern everywhere over about the fate of the bee and what would happen to our world without them.
Well, in a nutshell, if bees disappeared, our world would be impacted massively. For example, some plants, such as the bee orchid, are pollinated exclusively by bees. This plant would die off quickly without human intervention. If this plant were to die off, it would have a ripple effect on the food chain that it is a part of.
Even the plants that are only partly pollinated by bees would suffer without them, as bees are by far the greatest pollinators that we have. Without the bee, these other plants would almost certainly produce fewer seeds and would in turn have lower reproduction rates. The animals that depend on these plants to survive would also be affected.
Humans would see a huge change in the availability of the fruit and vegetables that we take so much for granted today. For instance, cherries and blueberries are almost entirely pollinated by honey bees, but if they had to be manually pollinated by farmers, it is highly unlikely that they could be grown at even a fraction of the scale as when bees pollinated them.
With such a devastating impact on fruit and vegetable crops, there is no doubt that human nutrition would be affected. And because human pollination is very labor intensive and expensive, it is very likely that only crops that are cost effective to produce would be grown.
What Can You Do to Save the Bee?
With so much emphasis on the importance of bees, you might be wondering if there is anything you can do to help. Fortunately, we can all play a part in saving the bees.
One of the best ways to help bees to survive is to plant bee-friendly plants in your backyard. You could even have a window box with these plants if you don’t have a yard to plant them in. When buying new plants, look for those that are free from pesticides, and avoid using chemicals in your garden. Peat-free compost is recommended, which will help keep peat bogs intact (these natural habitats are also under threat).
Bee hotels are also a great addition to any backyard. These trendy wooden structures are the perfect place for bees to rest and shelter in. They usually contain bamboo tubes in which the bee can crawl. You can look online for instructions on how to make your own or you can buy them ready-made. Not only do they provide a place for bees to rest, but they also look fantastic. If you are interested, Amazon sell a great collection of bee hotels. Just click here to check them out (opens in a new tab).
You may have often wondered why we need bees, but the truth is that they are vital to our ecosystem; without them many of the crops we rely on would die off. Bees are the most important pollinator we have and are worth billions to the farming industry every year.
However, bee populations are declining, and we need to act now to save them. Growing bee-friendly plants in your backyard, in pots, or window boxes will help these crucial insects to survive.
To help take your beekeeping to the next level, why not check out these product reviews I recently wrote:
Image Credit: CC BY-SA 4.0 – Daniel Schwen – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Dschwen