Top 5 Reasons to Care about Honey Bees

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Honey bees are not only amazing little creatures, but they are essential to the web of life, and without them our food supply would be in jeopardy.   Some of the remarkable things busy bees do include:

  1. Pollinate about one-third of the foods we eat in the United States (That’s 130 crops of fruits, vegetables &  nuts!).  Full pollination by honeybees yields larger fruit too.  Without them, even our meat, egg and dairy supplies would be hindered.  Plus, they aid in seed production for certain vegetables, cotton, flax and sesame.
  2. Provide us with honey and beeswax.   They produce honey by flying from flower to flower and sucking out the nectar.  They store the nectar in an extra honey-holding stomach.  After they visit between 100 and 1500 flowers, they fill up their honeystomachs with nectar that weighs almost as much as the bee itself!  Read more about the surprising honey-making process here.
  3. They have a highly-evolved social network.  They perform specific dances to communicate to one another the precise direction, distance, quality and quantity of food sources and home sites to their hive mates.
  4. They make our flower gardens flourish.  When a honeybee lands on a flower, it becomes covered in pollen.  This aids in the transfer of pollen from the male part of the flower to the female part, allowing reproduction to occur.  Bees also take back pollen to their hives where it is stored as a nutritious food source for their young.
  5. Honeybees are vegetarians.  Unlike carnivorous yellow jackets, honeybees are not attracted to your backyard barbecue.

Unfortunately, in recent years, honey bee populations have been declining drastically.  There’s a myriad of reasons for their decline:

  • Insecticides and herbicides that poison the nectar and pollen inside treated plants.
  • Genetically Engineered foods and Round-up Ready pesticides
  • Pathogens and parasites
  • Monoculture farms that raise only one type of crop.  They’re not sustainable on many levels, but they’re particularly bad for bees because once that one crop is harvested, there’s no more nectar and pollen left for the bees and other pollinators to eat.  For a truly eye-opening experience, read The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan.
  • Decline in family farms where farming was done sustainably and where these small farms had beehives on their properties.

The good news is that you can do a few things to help them.

  • Plant fragrant, colorful flowers to attract honeybees to your garden.  Try to have blooming plants all spring and summer long, especially in August.
  • Allow some weeds, like clover and dandelions, to live in your lawn so they can provide food sources for honeybees.
  • Don’t use pesticides, herbicides or insecticides.
  • Buy organic products and if you buy honey, opt for local honey where the plants are not treated with the systemic pesticides/ insecticides that are causing Colony Collapse Disorder.  Learn more from a recent study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health here.
  • Learn more from PBS.org.
  • Sign this petition to help save our essential pollinators:  bees.
  • Watch the one-hour webinar “Pollinators for your Garden”

 

Tag(s): The Great Green Outdoors, The Green Garden

Comments

2 Responses to “Top 5 Reasons to Care about Honey Bees”

  1. Joyce on July 16th, 2013 6:28 pm

    Help save honey bees by asking your Representative to support the “SAVE AMERICA’S POLLINATORS ACT” to suspend systemic pesticides that are killing honey bees. Follow this link: http://bit.ly/PollinatorBill. Thank you!

  2. Joyce on August 18th, 2013 9:45 am

    Please sign a quick petition telling Home Depot and Lowes not to sell plants treated with pesticides that kill bees: http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/1881/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=11819

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