Bees are small but mighty workers in our world ecosystems. The little winged workers belong to an elite club of insects and animals known as pollinators and these pollinators play a very big role in global food production.
Almost all plants require pollination in order to reproduce and to grow the fuits, vegetables and even flowers that we all enjoy. Take a look at how tiny, tiny bees are having a great big impact on our lives.
Honey Bees Help Put Food on Our Tables
Many people think of bees simply as a summertime nuisance, but these small and hard-working insects actually make it possible for many of your favorite foods to reach your table. Now a condition known as Colony Collapse Disorder is causing bee populations to plummet, which means many foods are also at risk. In the United States alone, more than 25 percent of the managed honey bee population has disappeared since 1990. Bees are one of a myriad of other animals, including birds, bats, beetles and butterflies, called pollinators. Pollinators transfer pollen and seeds from one flower to another, fertilizing the plant so it can grow and produce food. Cross-pollination helps at least 30 percent of the world’s crops and 90 percent of our wild plants to thrive. Without bees to spread pollen, many plants—including food crops—would die off.
Bees Keep Our Economy Humming
More than $15 billion a year in U.S. crops are pollinated by bees, including apples, berries, cantaloupes, cucumbers, alfalfa and almonds. U.S. honeybees also produce about $150 million in honey annually, but fewer bees means the economy takes a hit. The global economic cost of a decline in bees, including lower crop yields and increased production costs, has been estimated at as high as $5.7 billion per year. Keeping bee populations safe is critical for keeping American tables stocked with high-quality produce and our agriculture sector running smoothly.
Bees are Disapearing Around the World
Beekeepers first sounded the alarm about disappearing bees in the United States in 2006. Seemingly healthy bees were simply abandoning their hives en-masse, never to return. Researchers are calling the mass disappearance "Colony Collapse Disorder", and they estimate that nearly one-third of all honey bee colonies in the United States have vanished. The number of hives in the United States is now at its lowest point in the past 50 years.
If you have ever considered becoming a beekeeper, now is the time. IFA can help with everything you might need: educational seminars, training, equipment, clothing, bee orders and more. Visit your local IFA Country Store to order bees.
"Every third bite of food you take, thank a bee or other pollinator.
Honeybees help produce some of our favorite foods–apples, oranges, lemons, limes, onions, broccoli, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, cucumbers (and the pickles made from cucumbers), cantaloupes, carrots, avocados and almonds
Researchers think Colony Collapse Disorder may be caused by a number of interwoven factors: nutrition, mites, parasites, viruses, bacteria, pesticide use, etc. Habitat loss brought about by development, growing crops without leaving habitat for wildlife, and growing gardens with flowers that are not friendly to pollinators are other reasons attributed to Colony Collapse Disorder.
California almond growers must import honey bees from other states to pollinate their $2.3-billion-a-year crop, using about all the honey bees found in the United States."
Written by Martin James, own of Slide Ridge Honey in Mendon, Utah, and originally published in the IFA Cooperator magazine (vol. 82, no.1) Spring 2016.