A Symbiosis Between Bee and Man – Part 2
Take, But Also Give
This is the second and concluding part of my brief summary about the Symbiosis Between Bee and Man. In the first, we had a look at the history of the relationship and how it’s changed from ancient times to now. If you missed the entry, you can read Part 1 here.
The most important – you might even say essential – action bees carry out, is pollination. Oilseed rape, beans, tree fruit (apples, pears, plums etc), soft fruit (strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries etc) and nuts all require pollinators, and honey bees are important for most of these. When you bear in mind that a single honey bee is likely to visit and pollinate 675,000 flowers in its lifetime and there are up to 60,000 bees in one hive at the peak of summer, the bees from one hive could be responsible for pollinating over 40 billion plants in just one year! Multiply this by the 230,000 hives in the UK and you start to get a sense for just how important our honey bee colonies are and how boring our diets would be without them.
Of course, it’s not just about what man gets from pollinating insects. Many species of mammals, birds and countless other insects rely on fruits and nuts as an essential food source. In fact, numerous species of bird would be completely unable to survive the winter without a plentiful supply of hawthorn, ivy and other berries in our gardens, hedgerows and woodlands. One of the earliest flowering shrubs is the buckthorn and without early pollinating insects we’d have to forgo our sloe gin too! If that’s not enough to inspire a response, I’m not sure what is.
So, what can we do to maximise our positive influence on the humble bee? Perhaps the first step is to recognise the wider impact bees have on our lives, further than simply providing a toast topper. In fact, I’ve met beekeepers who profess not to even ‘like’ honey – so why do they do it? I think the real reason is something deeper inside us – you might even call it spiritual – but it all stems from being informed. Rather than ‘just’ a source of honey, we should celebrate bees for their truly mystical powers, enabling the pollination of many of our planet’s food sources, as discussed above.
This all sounds lovely, but what can we physically DO to influence change? First, we start at home. Preventing the spread of disease and pests is extremely important for both your apiary and the wider bee population. A great way to do this is to take preventative measures, instead of reacting after the fact – and a large part of that is maintaining a clean environment. Sterilised Wax foundations will definitely help with this, but you should also consider the little things, such as the cleanliness of your manipulation cloths.
Other than caring for our apiaries, we can consider the wider environment that other bees inhabit. We can look at what pollen sources are available in your community and make sure that it’s an attractive place for bees to colonise. If you’re not a beekeeper, then there are fantastic options to make your outside space a bee-paradise, such as growing bee-friendly plants.
I’ll delve deeper into the ways we can make our immediate environment friendlier to bees in the coming months, but for now, lets make sure we’re ready for the season and take every possible step to prevent any unwanted infections or infestations.