Its that time of the year when Bee’s are back in business and are out and about doing their thing, playing a vital role in the Ecosystem.
Bee’s are hugely important to us as a human race, playing a big part in our food production. In part 1 of this 2 part special on Bees we will learn all about bees and their importance to us and the planet; part 2 will look at what we can do to help save the Bees.
There are three types of bees; the honey bee, the bumble bee and the solitary bee.
All types of bees are pollinators and play a vital role in food production. Different bees pollinate different flowers and plants, so it’s really important that all varieties of Bees thrive. The Bumble bee does not make honey, but like both other bees they are superb pollinators. Bumble bees are the big hairy ones and there are about 25 species. The Solitary bee lives alone in the wild, not in a hive, and there are approximately 250 different varieties. The honey bee is a smaller, slimmer bee with an almost shiny appearance.
The Honey Bee
The honey bee lives in hives with up to 60,000 female worker bees being led by one queen. The queen lays eggs, as many as 2000 per day! The male bees called drones don’t work and live only for a few weeks, with their only job being to mate with the queen.
Honey is produced by the bees when they collect pollen and nectar and store it in their second stomach or crop. Once back at the hive, the bee regurgitates the honey into another bee’s mouth and the process is repeated until the nectar is deposited into the honeycomb. Once in the honeycomb the bees use there wings to fan the liquid in the comb to help it turn thicker through evaporation.
The bee’s eat the stored honey for energy in the colder months, when they stay in the hive. They are usually awake and active from March – September. Bees thrive in a temperate climate, they don’t like it too hot or too cold, so a balmy British summer is just perfect for them.
Did you know we import overseas bees to help with our demand for food?
In the UK we actually import around 65000 boxes of bees every year to meet the demand for all year round food produce, mainly our soft fruit industry. Our demand for out of season produce all year round means we need to import bees from overseas. These bees cannot be released into the wild due to the risk of spreading disease to our native bees, once the bees have been ‘used’ they are killed.
Bees are on the decline
Bees are on the decline, and the absolute main reason is the destruction of natural habitat. Although we need bees to pollinate crops for our food source, we are taking away their ability to do that. Since the 2nd World War the UK has lost 97% of its hay meadows and wildflower fields. All across the world the bees habitat is declining due to soya plantations used to produce cheap animal feed and palm oil plantations with intensive farming replacing the natural meadows. This is a perfect example of why we should eat seasonal produce.
A secondary reason that bees are dying is the increased use of pesticides in our food production.
The pesticides not only kill the pests, but also the bees that are working hard to pollinate our food and feed themselves. Particularly neonicotinoids, a systemic chemical as this is absorbed by the pollen and ingested by the bee. Eating organic is such a great way to combat this. Climate change with its increase in weather temperature is also playing a part.