Search

Why Bees are Important?

Bee numbers are in decline worldwide. Unfortunately, there isn’t just one cause behind their demise. How we live is threatening some of the world’s most productive agricultural workers. The bee is one of the most important pollinator species to our food security and ecosystems.

Threats

Bees need flowers, hedgerows, meadows, and other open spaces to find food. As our cities and population numbers increase, bees will have less suitable habitats. Why? Well, the concrete and roads we use to build our cities are destroying the natural environment. With the growing human population, farmers have to use more intensive farming methods and use up every piece of available land, so the wildflowers and hedges that used to surround a farmer’s fields are disappearing, making it harder for bees to find food.

Pesticides and chemicals

These are applied to crops to eliminate pests like aphids or spider mites that could destroy the crops before harvesting them. The problem is that they do not just harm these pests, but they also affect other animals and insects. Some pesticides kill bees, while others affect their reproduction and foraging abilities. If applied to flowers, chemicals could also enter the pollen/ nectar, which will return to the hive. It can affect their honey and end up in our food supply. One of the worst ones is a pesticide called neonicotinoids. In 2018, the EU banned using the three main neonicotinoids for all outdoor use.

Varroa mite

It is a tiny reddish-brown mite that attaches itself to bees and sucks their blood. These mites were initially found on the Asian Honey Bee, and over time, this species of Bee has developed many defences against them, but this mite is now found worldwide on Honey Bee species that have no defences against them. These mites infest a hive, slowly to begin with, and then after 3 or 4 years, the mites’ numbers are high enough to cause significant damage. Infestations slow down, replacing older Bees with newer ones and helping spread viruses throughout the colony.

What would a planet without bees look like?

Well, Bees are what we call critical pollinators. While bees happily fly from plant to plant collecting pollen and nectar for their hives, a Bee will brush against a plant’s stamens and stigma, transferring pollen from one plant to another, allowing fertilization and fruit with seeds to develop. Without these critical pollinators, our food supply and landscapes will dramatically change. Without Bees, we risk losing all the plants they pollinate and all the animals that eat them. With the loss of agriculture, could we realistically feed a human population our size? Our diets will also dramatically change. Can you imagine no honey, apples, berries, avocados, citrus fruits, almonds, coconuts, coffee, sunflower oil, cucumbers, onions, or pumpkins? These are just some foods we eat or drink that rely on bees.  Sure, we could hand pollinate, but this is time-consuming, which means that many of these foods would become so expensive that they would be out of reach of most of the population.

What can you do to help bees?

  • Buy local honey – not only will you support local beekeepers, but you will also find that each beekeeper’s honey will have a slightly different flavour – much better than the mass-produced honey you can get from the supermarket.
  • Plant a bee-friendly gardenAny outdoor space can be made bee-friendly; you don’t need much space. If you don’t have a garden, consider planting flowers or herbs in pots and putting them on your window sills or hanging them over the balconies. All you need to do is take a trip to your local garden centre and talk to them about which flowers, trees, and herbs best suit your area and garden.
  • Put out bee-friendly water sources. They don’t have to be anything more complicated than a birdbath with a few stones or even an egg carton. Fill it up so the bees can use the tops of the stones as drinking platforms.
  • Don’t use chemicals or pesticides in your garden. Your garden might not look as unspoiled, but you can use many natural alternatives instead of harsh chemicals. Epsom salts are effective at protecting your plants from slugs and snails; beer traps are also effective at controlling slugs. Vinegar can be used to kill weeds. Plants like Chrysanthemums look pretty and produce a pest-repelling compound called pyrethrin, which helps keep those pests away.
  • Buy organic food. Fresh produce is free of pesticides, which helps create a healthier environment for the bees to thrive in.
  • Protect the swarms. Swarming is a natural process by which bees form a new colony. A bee swarm might look threatening, but they usually present little danger. If you see a swarm, contact your local police, local authority, or even a local beekeeper. This way, they can be safely removed to an area where they can set up a new hive. Please give these animals the credit they deserve and help to protect them. Our plant will look very different without them.
About the Author:
Picture of Emma Summers

Emma Summers

Explore more

elephant herd in Pridelands with the mountain range in the background
Blog

The Elephant is Watching You

Many people love encountering elephants on their game drive in the South African bush, regardless of whether it is on an individual or a whole herd. Besides the obvious visible behaviour, there are many smaller signs of body language. Knowing them and being able to interpret them can increase your enjoyment of any elephant sighting.

Read more
Blog

The African Wild Dog

African wild dogs are a sight to behold with their colourful coats and long, elegant legs, especially in large packs. Unfortunately, the wild dog is one of the most endangered carnivores on the continent. We find out what makes them unique and how conservation initiatives strive to protect them.

Read more
Blog

The people you meet on an EcoTraining course

Have you decided to take an EcoTraining course? Then, a wealth of information is available to take in beforehand. The course descriptions, enough pictures on social media to make you daydream for hours, packing lists, and videos on EcoTraining’s YouTube channel. You name it, it’s there! One thing you won’t be able to find out upfront, though – unless you sign up with a bunch of friends – is who will be the people joining you on the course. In this story, Wim reflects on the fantastic group on his 35-day Practical Field Guide course.

Read more

Start your wildlife career

Want to become a field or nature guide? Explore our immersive courses and training programmes for professional safari guides and guardians of nature, taught and led by experts in the industry.

EcoTraining offers career and accredited courses, wildlife enthusiast courses, gap year programmes and customised group travel courses.

Join our nature-loving community.