On World Bee Day, we celebrate the marvel of this insect and its importance to our lives as humans and to the global ecological balance.
There are many thousands of species of bee recorded, from the tiny stingless bee to a very large bee at approximately 2 inches long. With the exception of Antarctica, bees are found on all other continents. Globally, scientists continue to study this fascinating insect, learning more about its biology and behaviour and sadly, the harm it faces from human activity. Bees, as with so many other pollinators, are under threat from loss of natural habitat and the use of some chemicals applied to food crops and of course, the impact of climate change.
Bees are essential pollinators. By gathering pollen on their bodies whilst collecting nectar from plants and transferring it to other plants, they offer a first class pollination service. In fact, we rely on bees to pollinate, two thirds of the crops that become the food we eat. Pollination is therefore a vital element in food security and diversity and as such, a major contributor to nations’ economies. It is estimated that bees – and other flying insects – contribute somewhere between $250 and $550 billion dollars to the global economy. We rely on the pollination by bees for crops of coffee, cocoa, almonds, soybeans etc.
Bee-keeping, and from this I refer to the Honey Bee, has a huge potential to contribute to rural household incomes by use and sale of the hive products, honey, beeswax, propolis and of course, making Mead. The products of the Honey Bee hive are well known in developed countries. In some of the world’s poorest nations, giving women the skills to harvest the hive products, empowers and enables them to have a sustainable income and the opportunity to support their family and afford education for their children. A number of Charities are dedicated to this work.
Honey bees are largely manged by humans and the type of ‘home’ they are provided with will vary in different countries. In poorer rural communities, managing bees does have the capacity to enhance socio economic development. The environmental and ecological benefits are immeasurable.
Soroptimists emphasise and promote the benefits of education. As a beekeeper (apiarist) myself, I have spoken to numerous groups from schoolchildren of all ages through to retirement groups and people attending festivals on the benefits of beekeeping and supporting all species of bee, in all global communities.
We are all aware of the discussions on climate change and its potential impact; we are all aware of the debates between scientists, chemical companies and food producers on the impact of some agro chemicals. This may make us feel disempowered to make any positive gestures. Not so. We can follow credible science and be well informed; we can lobby governments and local authorities; we can, as individuals, research which plants are suitable for the bees in our locality. We can plant bee friendly plants, even in a small space, just one or two plants make a valuable contribution.
So as a Soroptimist and an Apiarist, I urge everyone to value, treasure and love the Bee. Food diversity would have a very different look without it!
SI Yeovil, Sherborne and Districts