Honey bees are responsible for pollinating billions of dollars’ worth of crops in the US each year. Other pollinators exist, but none are as efficient as the honey bee!
Beekeepers expect to lose up to 35% of their bee population each year, from a variety of factors. Old bees just sometimes don’t return to the hive, but other factors also impact hive health. For example, did you know that the pesticides a grower uses can impact hive health? Older worker bees forage for pollen and nectar, but pick up chemicals also (if present). When they return to the hive, those chemicals end up in their complex hive system. Other causes are believed to be linked to industrial agriculture, parasites/pathogens, and climate change.
But we need the bees! They are an integral part of a healthy ecosystem. A third of all our food depends on their pollination. Without bees (and other natural pollinators) we would have to hand-pollinate our crops! The economic value of bees’ pollination work has been estimated at around $335 billion annually, worldwide. In other words, it pays to protect the bees!
Who doesn’t love honey? It’s delicious but also good for you in many ways. When a worker bee returns to the hive after foraging, the nectar is delivered to one of the indoor bees and is passed mouth to mouth from bee to bee until its moisture content is reduced to about 20%. This is what changes the nectar into honey! The honey is then stored in the honeycomb, capped with beeswax, and ready for the arrival of newborn baby bees. Pollen is mixed with nectar to make “bee bread” and is fed to the baby bees. This causes the bee community to flourish.
We also reap the benefits of the bees’ hard work! Honey is a tasty treat, but also carries many health benefits. It is rich in antioxidants, it may help lower blood pressure, it helps improve cholesterol, and can lower triglycerides. The antioxidants in honey are also linked to a healthy heart!