Why bees matter so darn much
September is Bee Awareness Month in Aotearoa New Zealand. And we think the start of spring is a brilliant opportunity to celebrate our hardworking stripy friends – and the importance of bees for us humans and for life on earth.
Not only do bees produce very delicious honey, they play an essential role in the food we eat, biodiversity and economy. Here are just a few reasons why we all need to take care of bees.
Yes, we’re completely biased, so we’re starting with our favourite (and most delicious) reason for looking after bees. But let’s face it, life would be rather less lovely without honey – in our cooking, skincare, and for our everyday wellbeing.
Bees of all kinds are the world’s most important pollinator of food crops. Up to half of the food we eat relies on pollination by bees (other natural pollinators include wind, other insects like butterflies and hoverflies, bats and birds). We might think of fruit trees like apples and cherries, but there are many more types of food that need bees to grow. There are avocados, oil crops like soybeans and sunflowers, veges like asparagus, celery, broccoli, and the cucurbit family that includes, pumpkins, melons and cucumbers. There’s also citrus fruit, stone fruit, berries and many types of nuts. Bees also pollinate feed crops including alfalfa and clover, so they’re vital to dairy and meat production too.
Every season, pollination from honeybees, native bees, and flies deliver billions in economic value. Somewhere between $235 and $577 billion (U.S.) the world’s food production each year depends on bees being busy. And in a country that very reliant on primary industries, bees are truly our best friends. According to New Zealand government figures, the busy work of bees is worth around $5 billion a year to the New Zealand economy.
It’s not just our food crops that rely on insect pollinators like bees to reproduce and flourish. Bees are a vital part of so many of the world’s complex, interconnected ecosystems – where thousands of diverse species coexist. Bees help grow the trees and other plants that feed and shelter other insects and animals. In fact, many tree-filled ecosystems couldn’t grow without pollinators – from African savannahs, to Indonesian rainforests. If bees disappeared, whole environments would vanish.
All over the world right now, clever bees are pollinating the flowers that fill our gardens, meadows and florist shops. From these flowers, people extract perfume, make medicine and harvest food. And bees too, depend on bee-friendly flowers all year round, that are free from nasty pesticides like neonicotinoids.
There’s so much more we can learn from and about bees. Even if they didn’t contribute to our lives, ecosystems and economies, we still think it’s wonderful simply having them around.
As much as we rely on bees, they depend on us too. This Bee Awareness Month, we’ll be sharing with you the steps our intrepid beekeepers take to keep our honeybees safe, and the things you can do to help look after bees too.