By Jasmin Lim
They may be small, but their importance in the world as we know it is beyond our understanding. Bees are some of the hardest working creatures on the planet, working tirelessly around the clock to make many of the things we take for granted (like human development itself on the earth!) possible.
Our lives, and the world as a whole would be drastically different if bees didn’t exist. They are responsible for pollinating more than 400 different agricultural types of plant; amounting to approximately a third of everything we eat! Crazy, huh?
Bees are so incredibly important to our ecosystem, that to say that we rely on their pollinating efforts to sustain our modern food system is an understatement... If bees ceased to exist, we wouldn’t be able to consume many of the foods we eat such as broccoli, asparagus, cucumber, pumpkin, blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, almonds and apples (I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t live in a world without strawberries!). In addition to their agricultural value, bees are also responsible for the pollination of 90% of wild plants, providing habitats for animals, and in the process beautifying our planet – and what would life be without our stunning natural landscape?
So all in all, bees are pretty damn important. The number of bees globally has been in decline in recent years, due to disease, parasites, climate change and wider industrial agricultural practices such as the production of monocultures (a single crop variety) and use of pesticides – and thus a catastrophe is looming in future years unless we do something to support these buzzy bugs now.
So how can we help the little buzzy bugs? Despite the bigger issues like banning the use of bee-harming pesticides, there are some simpler and easier ways you can help.
- Buy local, seasonal and organic. As a consumer, you hold a large amount of power in your dollar. Eating local, seasonal and organic is not only better for the bees, but also for our health, the community and larger ecosystem.
- Plant bee-friendly flowers and flowering herbs in your garden. Not only will you beautify your garden, but also provide bees with a greater area to roam, and essentially more food to eat. Worldwide, there is less untamed land to support bees. Farmland is stripped of all but cash-crop plants, leaving no flowery food for bees. Therefore, just by planting flowers in your garden you are helping provide bees with food to forage.
- Don’t use chemicals and pesticides to treat your lawn and garden. Yes, they may make your lawn look pretty and pristine, but ironically they’re doing the opposite to the natural life and habitat in your biosphere.
- If you are going to eat honey, buy local and raw. This is where you hold all the power in your dollar. The honey you buy sends a direct message to beekeepers about what you value and how they should keep their bees. For this reason (and your own personal health!) strive to buy local, raw honey from hives that aren’t treated with chemicals and are managed ethically (such as those harvested during spring). Not only will you better you health, and the bees, but you’ll also be helping your local community and the landscape to flourish. Honey is also the least gas- guzzling and energy intensive sweetener around, making it even more eco-friendly.
- Put a small basin of fresh water in your garden. Yup, this one may seem a little strange… but bees are thirsty! – Make sure that you fill the basin with small stones or marbles though to give the bees a place to land, or they may drown when they come to drink. They will be most suitably impressed!
- Understand that bees aren’t out to get you. Bees aren’t out to sting you, they simply want to forage for pollen and nectar from flowers, and bring that food back to their hive. Therefore, if you don’t get in their way, they won’t get in yours. If you do find yourself in the way of a bee, stay still and calm, so neither you get stung nor do they die from stinging you!
- Share this knowledge around! One of the most powerful ways to make a bigger difference is to share your knowledge (or just share this post!). Bees do not have a voice of their own, and so we have to speak for them in order to save the humble buzzy bee – which will indirectly save our agricultural food system, and most importantly the larger ecosystem.