A wise man once said “If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live” – a line usually attributed to Einstein even though it was actually proclaimed by Maurice Maeterlinck, a Belgium-based Nobel Prize winner. Now, despite its dramatic message, the quote is not totally daft and it seems plausible enough – if all bees were to die tomorrow, honey shortage would be the least of our problems.
As you find yourself spending increasingly more time outside this summer, the chances are you’re going to bump into a bee or two.
Many people are afraid of bees, lumping them into the same pest category as the infamous wasp, but there’s really no need to be. Bees are beautiful insects, and for the best part they are peaceful, only stinging as a last resort.
In fact, bees play a vital role in our ecosystem, ensuring the annual pollination and propagation of many of our favourite plants and flowers.
It is estimated that without the natural pollination carried out by bees, the US would lose anywhere from a third to half of its national food supply. Ecosystems are complex webs, and the loss of the bumblebee would have a profound effect on the integrity of our natural habitats.
Without these crucial pollinators, plants would struggle to procreate. Wildflowers in particular depend on the attention of bees to spread their pollen. As keystone components of many food chains, the loss of wildflowers would be devastating.
The impacts of this loss would be far reaching, affecting everything from insects and birds to larger mammals.
Fewer, leaner livestock directly translates to reduced food commodities. And yet, this is exactly what is happening.
One out of every three bites of food you eat is dependent on pollinators like the honey bee. Chances are that some of your favourite food is a result of pollination, such as avocados, asparagus, broccoli, squash, cucumbers, apples, pears, berries, kiwis, cherries, melons, and more! In the US, there are over 39 commercial crops that are reliant on bees and even those that are not directly pollinated by honey bees still benefit from its presence, as they increase the biodiversity in the area, stimulating the crops.
Honey bees and healthy crops are closely connected and honey bees play a critical role in the growth of crops. The growth of healthy crops is necessary not only for us to keep enjoying our favourite foods but also for farmers to maintain their livelihood. In fact, honey bees are so important to farmers that they often get beehives placed on their own farms to provide pollination for their crops!
Apart from farmers, there are over 29,000 individuals that rely entirely on honey bees in the US: beekeepers, whose livelihood depends on honey harvesting and sale. However, the bee farming industry also plays an essential role in reversing the pollinator decline, through the provision of managed and targeted pollination services.
The US countryside is well-known for its interesting and colourful wildflowers, an important element of our complex woodland. Did you know that approximately 80% of wildflowers in United States are pollinated by bees? As one of the most important pollinators, honey bees are responsible for completing the wildflowers’ reproductive cycle, which means that without them, our countryside would quickly become less interesting and less beautiful.
The disappearance of honey bees would trigger an inevitable chain of events that could actually impact our health and nutrition. Losing these pollinators could lead to lower availability of crops, which are an integral part of our food intake and that provide essential micronutrients for human diets. Without these crops, the risk for increased numbers of people suffering from vitamin A, iron and folate deficiency would increase, affecting our health and nutritional intake.
Finally, honey bees play a significant role in the pollination of non-ingestible crops, such as cotton and flax, utilised in a lot of non-food products that we use in our day-to-day, like clothing, bedding, and more. In addition, the honey bee also produces other valuable substances other than honey, like beeswax, which is widely used in cleaning and beauty products.
Since the 1930s it is estimated that we have already lost a staggering 97% of our flower-rich grassland to agriculture and increasing urbanisation. Given that bees rely entirely upon flowers as their food source, it is unsurprising that their populations have begun to suffer.
In the US alone, the bee population has fallen between 10% and 15% over the last two years.
Two species have already become extinct in the US since the start of the twenty-first century, and several others are in trouble, with the very real possibility that they could become extinct in the US within a short time. In particular, the Great yellow bumblebee and the Shrill carder bee are most at risk.
If we are to preserve the natural beauty of our countryside and the structure of our ecosystems, actions need to be taken to help save the bees.
Hunnibi is proud to support the fight to save honeybees and bumblebees. We understand the importance of the role our bees play in maintaining the country’s status quo.