Importance of Bee's & Pollination

UNDERSTANDING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BEES & POLINATION

The honey-bee is one of our best known insects, whose relationship with humans can be traced back to the dawn of humankind when early people 'stole' honey from wild bee nests. Cave paintings in Spain from as long ago as 6000 bc show our ancestors taking honey from bees, which surely indicates that beekeeping is at least as old as the other two oldest professions.

    By the time humans did come on the scene, the honey-bee had already been around for about 40-50 million years or more-it had evolved from its hunting-wasp ancestors and had become a strict vegetarian. Bees and flowering plants then evolved with each other in a truly remarkable relationship that changed and coloured the world we live in. This evolutionary symbiotic relationship is probably the most important reason why our world looks like it does today, and still the vital work of bees goes on. It is a sobering thought that, if all humans were to be wiped out, the world would probably revert to the rich, ecologically balanced state that existed some 10,000 years ago. On the other hand, if bees and other pollinating insects were to be wiped out, humans and other animals would not last for long.

Bees pollinate plants so that plants can reproduce, and that really is the bottom line. That is what bees are all about. That is why we need bees and that is why hundreds of millions of dollars, pounds and euros are spent annually by governments around the globe in protecting bees, in bee research and in beekeeping subsidies of one type or another.

Because of their pollinating activities, honey-bees are the most economically important insects on earth, and certainly the most studied. Honey production is essentially a side issue. The honey-bee's role-and thus the beekeeper's role-in this becomes more important and valuable by the day as our farming and other practices dramatically eradicate the habitats of other types of bees and pollinating insects. Some insects can exist only by eating the pollen of certain plants. If those plants were removed so that more crops could be planted, bees and other pollinating insects would die out. What, then, would pollinate our huge areas of mono-crops? The answer would be to truck in honey-bees by the million.

Pollination can be achieved only by using large numbers of honey-bees. In this way, our crops and wildflowers are pollinated, and the beekeeper can obtain a pollination fee and honey for sale. As a reward for pollination, and as an enticement to the bee, most plants offer food-nectar-in return. The bees take this, alter it through the addition of enzymes, reduce its moisture content and store it as honey so that they and their colony may survive winter periods or other periods of dearth. In this way they differ from wasps, bumble-bees and other types of bee, whose colonies die out on the approach of winter, with only the newly mated queens hibernating until the spring when they will start new colonies.


PROFITING FROM A GOLD MINE


If you look at fields full of flowering crops or wild flowers in the countryside, or at garden and park flowers in the cities, you are not only looking at beauty but also at gold-thousands of tons of valuable honey. Liquid gold sitting there, all for you! If you don't go and get it, the flowers will die at the end of the season and all those tons of honey will go to waste. All that money will simply have dried up in front of your eyes. If, on the other hand, you have bees, they will go and get it for you for free, and you can then either eat it or sell it or both.

Bees are probably the only livestock that use other people's land without permission-and those landowners welcome them. It is a win-win situation for the bee and for everyone else. Your bees are happy carrying out their work; you can enjoy your hobby or business, and if you want to you can make a profit; the farmers get their crops pollinated and so they make a profit; the shops obtain food to sell and they make a profit; the general public have food to eat; and the government is happy that its agricultural and environmental sectors are running smoothly and that somewhere along the line they will be able to raise some tax.

USING HONEY IN MEDICINE

Honey is no longer old Gran's remedy for colds or an 'alternative' therapy. It is now a mainstream medicine available on national health systems and used in hospitals in the countries.

BEES AND LEARNING


Honey-bees are not domestic animals. They are wild and, unlike horses and cows and other livestock, they don't recognize beekeepers as their owners. Having said that, recent research has shown that, despite the small size of its brain, a bee can recognize human faces if trained to do so and can remember them for two days. Scientists hope that, by studying this amazing ability further, they will be able to develop better facerecognition computer software. It is unlikely, however, that the average beekeeper will find their bees flocking to them on sight. Bees (like other insects) are assumed to act on instinct alone. However, they can also 'learn'-and not only learn a primary task but they can also learn and remember a secondary task resulting from the first. Like most other life forms, their daily life involves family (colony) survival and the propagation of their species.

MASTER CHEMISTS


To accomplish this, bees manufacture wax as a building material and honey as an energy food. They also collect pollen as a protein food. They produce propolis to use as a glue, a gap filler and an antibiotic and anti-viral varnish for the nest. They manufacture a highly complex venom to deter predators, including beekeepers, and complex arrays of pheromones that regulate life in the hive. Finally, they produce royal jelly-a highly nutritious substance with which to feed their brood, and they even produce silk to cocoon themselves in during their larval/pupal development. In short, they are master chemists, able to manufacture or collect and alter everything needed for their survival.

SPENDING YOUR TIME WITH BEEKEEPING


Unlike other livestock, bees do not need constant attention. They will go out each day and get on with it whether you are there or not. If you devote one day in ten to them with occasional bursts of more attention when required and during the harvest, you would be able to keep bees satisfactorily, and this is, in the main, for only part of the year. During the winter months you can leave them alone completely unless something dramatic happens, such as flooding or lightning strikes. Hobby beekeepers usually increase the number of beehives they keep, and some may expand their activity into selling part of their honey crop at local markets and in shops. Most will join their local beekeeping associations that, in some countries such as the UK, are very social institutions holding shows, dinners and drinks parties, lectures and advice sessions, and some of the most cut-throat competitions where skulduggery reigns supreme (they would never admit to this, though). Click to know more about bees


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