Bees are essential for the health of people and the planet. Honey and other products have medicinal properties, and the role of bees as pollinators makes them vital for food supplies.
There are around 20,000 known bee species worldwide, and over 4,000 are native to the United States. Humans only manage a few of these, and most species are wild.
A loss of bees would affect honey supplies, but, more importantly, world food security and biodiversity. Without them, the world could be a very different place.
Bees are significant for many reasons. They have historical importance, contribute to human health, and play a role in maintaining healthy ecosystems.
Not all bees produce honey, but it is one of the main reasons people value them. The substance is a natural sweetener with many potential health qualities.
People have used bees and bee-related products for medicinal purposes for thousands of years.
In traditional medicine, people use honey when treating a wide variety of conditions. While many of these uses do not have scientific backing, they include:
- eye diseases
- bronchial asthma
- throat infections
- worm infestation
Beeswax is another important product that people have previously used in waterproofing and fuel. It currently has benefits for health and features in a number of skincare products. Additionally, pharmaceutical industries
Other bee products that can benefit human health include:
In recent years, it has become clear that honey may not be the most important reason to protect bees. This is because bees play a crucial role in pollination, where they use the hairs on their bodies to carry large grains of pollen between plants.
Around 75% of crops produce better yields if animals help them pollinate. Of all animals, bees are the most dominant pollinators of wild and crop plants. They visit over 90% of the world’s top 107 crops.
In other words, bees are essential for the growth of many plants, including food crops.
People have been working with bees around the world for millennia. The significance comes from the direct harvesting of honey and beeswax and cultural beliefs.
For example, the Ancient Greeks thought of bees as a symbol of immortality. In the 19th century, beekeepers in New England would inform their bees of any major events in human society. Meanwhile, native northern Australians used beeswax when producing rock art.
For history experts, bee products are a
Society and the environment
Bees are very intelligent, and people have applied knowledge of their mannerisms and social interactions when creating human initiatives.
For example, researchers have suggested that studying the actions of bees could help experts develop emergency plans to evacuate people from an overcrowded environment.
Observing honeybee dances can also help scientists understand where changes are taking place in the environment.
Farming practices, global warming, and disease are just a few reasons why bee numbers are declining. Experts are concerned about the impact on world food supplies, especially fruits, nuts, and vegetables.
They say that without bees, there will be no more nuts, coffee, cocoa, tomatoes, apples, or almonds, to name a few crops. This could lead to nutritional deficiencies in the human diet, as these products are essential sources of vital nutrients.
In financial terms, the pollination of fruits and vegetables by wild bees across the United States has a high economic value. One 2020 study found that wild bees were responsible for a significant portion of net income from blueberries. There is a direct link between the economic yield of farmers and the presence of bees.
In 2012, experts estimated that total pollination to be worth $34 billion, with a large portion of this amount due to bees.
Green backyards and gardens can be vital resources for bees. Growing native flowers and leaving weeds to develop can contribute to bee health and numbers by providing food and shelter. Reducing landscaping activities, such as mowing or pruning, can help bees by increasing the amount of vegetation available.
According to a
Nonscientists and volunteers can contribute to research through citizen science initiatives, where people report what they see in their local area. This can help experts understand what is happening in a particular area or country.
For example, a citizen-based
Additionally, in the 2007 Great Pollinator Project, a partnership in New York encouraged members of the public to watch bees and record the types of wildflowers they visited.
Such findings help scientists find useful ways to protect bees. However, this depends on people being able to identify species correctly. Therefore, learning about bee species and habits can also help individuals protect them.
Bees have cultural and environmental importance as pollinators and producers of honey and medicinal products. The movement of pollen between plants is necessary for plants to fertilize and reproduce.
Both farmed and wild bees control the growth and quality of vegetation — when they thrive, so do crops. Bees are vital when it comes to food security. However, the welfare and number of bees worldwide are in decline, and it is essential to protect them to maintain human well-being.