7 Reasons Why You Should Care about Bees

Our buzzing insect friends are rapidly disappearing. They play a vital role in human continuity, supplying us with food and maintaining a balanced eco-system. Find out why these black and yellow honey-makers are so very important.

Dec 18, 2014
Special Collections: ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL

Bees form the backbone of our food system. [Flickr user autan]

Believe it or not, bees are the foundation of the human food chain; in other words - without bees we would not be able to eat. Yes, those buzzing insects that can sometimes appear threatening with their infamous stingers are the backbone of the majority of our food production, from fruits and nuts, to vegetables and flowers. In 2006, a startling phenomenon occurred in the United States and abroad: it was discovered that over one-third of all bee colonies had vanished. While the reasons for this upsetting trend were largely unknown, it has been deduced that harmful insecticides are the culprits causing the massive bee disappearance, known as colony collapse disorder. Other factors such as environmental stressors and disease are also seen to be contributing factors to bees’ decline. Happily, people have begun to take notice, and actively work to reverse the gloomy predicament by mobilizing to ban insecticides and operating nonprofits that are raising awareness and providing technology for people to come to the rescue of bees.  Buff up on your bee facts so that you may be an advocate for these fascinating creatures, who have a major impact on our lives.

1. EVERY BITE YOU TAKE IS THANKS TO A BEE

About one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination.

Little girl taking a bite out of watermelon wedge

Bees pollinate watermelons, making this delicious fruit available for us to eat. [Shutterstock] 

2. HONEY IS MONEY

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that honey bees pollinate 80 percent of the country’s insect crops—meaning bees pollinate over $20 billion worth of crops each year.


A field of crops at dusk

Crops are growing thanks to bees. [Shutterstock]

3. THE POWER OF POLLINATION

Buzzing bees pollinate around one-sixth of all the flowering species worldwide and approximately 400 different agricultural types of plant.


A bee pollinating a flower.

A bee pollinating a flower. [Flickr user blathlean]

4. HONEY IS HEALTHY

That sweet bee-made nectar is one of the only foods that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life, including enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and water. Honey also contains "pinocembrin", an antioxidant associated with improved brain function.

African bees in a cup of honey

Bees enjoying the fruit of their labors. [Flickr user Evan Bench]

5. BUMBLE BEES HAVE A HIGH FUNCTIONING INTERNAL GPS SYSTEM

Bumble bees are capable of figuring out the shortest possible routes between flowers, flying in the most time-efficient course even if they discover the flowers are in a different order. Known as the computational traveling salesman problem, computers solve this by comparing the lengths of all possible routes and then selecting the shortest. Bees are the only known animals to have this uncanny ability.

Bees flying and pollinating a yellow flower

Bees know their exact destination and the most efficient way to arrive. [Flickr user Jack Wolf]

6. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE BUZZ

The honey bee's wings stroke 11,400 times per minute, making their distinctive buzz. Using those fast-flapping wings, a typical honey bee can fly for up to 6 miles and as fast as 15 miles per hour.

A bee flying and buzzing next to a flower

A bee in motion. [Flickr user Psycho Della]

7. BEES HAVE AN ANCIENT HISTORY

In Spain, cave paintings from 7000 BC have been found, showing the earliest records of beekeeping, and fossils of honey bees have been recovered dating back to some 150 million years ago.

A fossilized bee

A fossilized bee. [Image from National Park Service


Shoshana radiates doing good, driven by a love for people and community. Among many topics, she writes about friendship, creativity and healthy living.
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