Bee Positive!

Albert Einstein once quoted as saying “If the bees disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live.” Though it isn't entirely obvious, it is true that if bees & other pollinating flies were to disappear, humans would have no way to pollinate plants. If we were unable to pollinate plants, we would be unable to grow them, which of course, would lead to worldwide famine and eventually human extinction as well. The good news is there are things we can do to stop honey bee extinction before it becomes devastating.

Why Honey Bees and other flies are going extinct..?

No one knows the exact reason. Biologists have several theories and the real reason is likely to be a combination of several of these theories. One such theory is based on the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides that are being ingested by honey bees as they collect pollen from plants and flowers.

Another popular theory as to why honey bee populations have decreased is due to global warming. Though the warming of the Earth is not affecting the bees themselves, it is causing increased populations of mites, viruses and fungi, which are in turn, killing off the bees.

The third popular theory on possible bee extinction is due to vulnerability to electromagnetic radiation. Electromagnetic radiation is specifically caused by cell phones and wireless communication towers.

Though it is possible that honey bees can become extinct, it is imperative that we stop the process of honey bee extinction now, before the devastating results are able to set in. As you can see, taking small steps in your own yard or neighborhood can bring safety and results in the race to save bees. Since we share this Earth with other creatures, it is only fair that we offer a helping hand when possible. It could, indeed, save human-kind as well.

Bees and flowering plants have a mutually dependent relationship which has developed over the eons in such a way that it benefits both the plants and the insects; they both need each other.

The bees’ food is provided entirely by the plants they visit. To attract the bees to the plant and consequently as a reward for their pollination services, plants provide bees with nectar & pollen.  Nectar is a food source rich in energy and pollen is a source of protein, used by young bees. Honey bees turn the nectar into honey and store the pollen in the cells of the honeycomb.  Storing food allows honey bees to survive in times of scarcity and across a wide range of habitats and climatic conditions, making the honey bee one of the earth's most adaptable species.

While honey bees and other insects are visiting flowers to feed, they spread pollen from one plant to another. Bees and trees are interdependent and have been perfecting their relationship over the last 50 million years or so bringing about pollination and the production of viable seed. Trees do not need bees simply for their own reproduction but for maintenance and regeneration of the whole system within which trees exist. The more species of fruits & seeds generating within an ecosystem, the greater its diversity and the richer its life carrying capacity. Trees and bees represent a truly harmonious symbiosis. Rural people can generate income from this symbiosis while at the same time helping to safeguard natural habitats by the sustainable use of bee resources. 

In most developing countries, the main honey sources come from trees. Beekeepers can protect their honey harvest by protecting the trees and plants that give the bees both food and shelter. Many honey bearing trees have other useful purposes as well, so protecting trees not only helps the bees, but also improves & preserves the local environment and enhances other strands of the bee farmers' livelihood.

One independent study has found, the losses of wild pollinators from agricultural landscapes could threaten global crop yields. One has to understand how the losses of wild pollinators impact crop production. The more wild pollinators a field contained, the more fruit it produced. Farm should include habitat for both honeybees & wild insect.

However, great changes have taken place over the last 50 years and the over-exploitation of forest now threatens the very existence of humankind. Because the value of trees is not fully appreciated trees are often disregarded during the expansion of other agriculture. One of today's greatest challenges is to save and protect forests and find sustainable management systems that provide food and income for future generations. The loss of forest resources will result in the loss of honeybee colonies as well as other essential pollinators.

Forests worldwide are of priceless ecological value; they prevent soil erosion, control flooding, affect rainfall, store and recycle nutrients, and provide habitats for vast numbers of plant and animal species. Beekeeping is therefore central to community forestry activities. The trees are essential for the survival and production of bees. Trees provide materials for beehives as well as the parent colonies and herbal materials that aid hive colonization. Trees protect the colonies from extremes of temperature while the floral diversity within the forest provides a sound basis for a sustainable beekeeping sector. The bees pollinate the tree flowers helping to regenerate the resource and the involvement of beekeepers in community forestry projects improves people's participation and leads to greater protection of the resource. It is important to understand the multi purpose value of trees and forests if we are to have any hope of conserving existing forests or developing new forest activities. Income from bees may be one of the fastest ways to bring profitability from more long term community forest projects.

There are three things EVERYONE of us can do to help bees :-

DO provide an environment safe for bees, free from pesticides and pollution.
DO provide good food sources for bees - flower-rich, diverse, with long seasons.
DO maintain bee habitats with nest sites as well as food and water. 

The next time you see a bee buzzing around, remember that much of the food we eat depends significantly on natural insect-mediated pollination - the key ecosystem service that bees and other pollinators provide...free of cost!

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