One of the most under-appreciated insects in the world is the bee. They do so much for us, yet a lot of people squeal and run away when they see one. Bees aren’t angry like wasps, and they will only sting if they sense that you’re a threat to their hive. One thing that is confusing a number of scientists is the death of bees. They’re dying, and nobody is 100% sure what’s causing it to happen.
It may seem like a small issue, but it’s a serious thing to focus on. All over the world, governments are recording bees dying at an unprecedented scale. Recently, Europe was one of the worst affected, with the highest bee loss in history occurring.
Although looking after the health of bees may not be at the top of our ‘to do list’, the repercussions would be massive.
What would happen if there were no bees at all?
Albert Einstein is known to have said that if bees simply didn’t exist anymore, all of humanity would only have four years to live. To give you an understanding of what life would be like without bees, imagine a watermelon.
To grow watermelons, vines are simply planted and they will have a crop of around sixty. Now, if there was no bees, the watermelon would be completely tasteless. This is if the fruit even manages to develop properly. A piece of fruit is made tasty due to its seeds.
Every single seed will need to be pollinated for it to grow properly. In a watermelon, as the seeds become pollinated, the actual fruit becomes ripe, and it will have a natural sweet taste. If bees weren’t there to pollinate the seeds, it would never look or taste like the watermelons you can enjoy today.
If you bear in mind that seeds need to be pollinated for sufficient growth, think of how many vegetables have seeds. That’d mean no more strawberries, raspberries, oranges, apples, cucumber, peppers, and avocado, and that’s only naming a small handful.
The only three vegetables that would survive bee extinction would be sweet corn, pineapples and banana. You wouldn’t have any butter to go with the corn, though. Forgot about fancy cooking, as there wouldn’t be any oils to cook or marinate foods with.
If you think that you’d be able to survive without living on vegetables, other foods would also be impacted. Farm animals such as pigs, goats, chickens and cows require either grass or hay to eat. Any pasture grass and even forage legumes need bees to produce seed. Say goodbye to butter, cream, cheese, milk and meat. People would turn to fish, and this resource would then be depleted quickly.
You’d be a lot more limited when it comes to what you can wear. You can say goodbye to a lot of your clothing, as cotton wouldn’t be available anymore, resulting in a lack of denim. Don’t forget towels, blankets and bed sheets.
Possibly one of the worst things that would impact pretty much every worker in England would be no coffee or tea. Coffee shops would go out of business, as there’d be nothing to sell.
If the thought of a world without bees didn’t worry you before, you should be terrified now!
What is causing the death of bees?
People all over the world have started to notice that the bee population is lowering at a fast rate. Here’s the strangest thing though – no ones 100% sure what’s causing their deaths. The following section will cover some of the top reasons that may be the reason bees are dying.
Something that has always been controversial on a number of levels; over the years there has been a number of reviews on the strength of the pesticides. Depending on what the strength is, it can have a harmful effect on bees, with a number of scientists shouting out for safer alternatives.
One of the biggest problems is the chemicals that are found in a plant or vegetable once a pesticide has been used on them. It leaves a residue in the nectar, which is what a bee collects. It doesn’t kill them, instead causing chronic problems over a period of time. If the chemical nectar is taken back to the hive, a large number of bees can end up infected.
Pesticides are believe to be that much of an issue, after a study in France, one type of pesticide was fully banned. Money was invested on a brand new pesticide, but when that was shown to be toxic as well, it was also banned.
Miticides and Antibiotics
Beekeepers that have dealt with bees dying have reported that they used both miticides and antibiotics to produce a better quality honey. One of the biggest problems with this is noting down the exact ingredients that were used in the antibiotics, as they can change on a regular basis.
There have been a lot of tests done on these chemicals, but there has been a struggle to identify any specific side effects they may cause. It may be due to two different chemicals combining together that causes the toxicity.
Some businesses are now allowing people to rent bees for a period of time. It started off as a minor service, but now more and more people are choosing to invest time in bee rental. It allows people to experience taking care of bees without having to make a full commitment.
If a bee goes from one climate to another that is completely different, it can have a disorientating effect on their behaviour. They can get confused, and the pollen levels may become too high.
In the case that any bees have a contagious virus that isn’t necessarily identifiable straight away, when the bees are rented out at different locations it can mean that the virus spreads on a faster basis. Another observation is that movement on a regular basis can cause strain on the whole hive.
When scientists were looking at the cause of death in a number of bees, beekeepers said that they noted that the bees seemed extremely stressed before the hive began to die off. This normally only happens if there’s poor nutrition or the colony becomes weak.
This was one of the few factors that had affected hives that were investigated. One of the biggest problems about this factor though is if it’s due to the rise in death of bees. If a hive is weak, they’re likely to die anyway, as is a part of nature.
A researcher noticed that a lot of beekeepers had been feeding bees high fructose corn syrup during the winter months so that they could keep their strength. As high fructose corn syrup can change completely depending on where you purchase it, there was no way to understand what specific aspect could cause death.
What can I do to help the bees?
There are a number of things you are able to do if you want to help bees survive.
Provide a helping hand to a grounded bee
Sometimes you may see a bee on the ground that isn’t able to fly. If it’s sick or infected then there isn’t much you are able to do. In some cases, a bee may get caught out in a sudden downpour or a cold spell. One of the best things to do in this situation is to pick them up with a piece of card or paper and put them somewhere which is warmer.
In some cases the bee may be completely drained of energy. This can happen if they fly further than they intended when seeking pollen. Bees aren’t like us where we can have a little nap and then carry on with our business.
Create a mixture that is 30/70 honey and water. It should be given to the bee with either a eye dropper or pipette. If you don’t have any of these, simply leave a bit on a surface within a bees reach, being careful not to get them wet or sticky. Once they’ve recharged they will fly off back on their hunt for pollen.
Sometimes you may find that a grounded bee is actually a queen. By saving a queen bee there’s a good chance that you’ve just saved the life of a whole nest.
If overnight there has been a frost, or a strong wind has damaged some of your flowers, you may want to supplement the nectar so that the bees can still get the energy that’s vital to their existence. It’s easy enough to create a mixture, only requiring around 30% sugar and then 70% water.
Put a small amount of the mixture you’ve created into something like the cap of a pen or the top of a pop bottle. If you situate this in a patch of your flowers, a bee will be sure to find the mixture.
Plant flowers that bees are more attracted to
You may believe that any flower is able to feed a bee, but that isn’t the case. Some flowers won’t actually produce enough food to be beneficial for the maintenance of a hive. Sometimes it isn’t down to the type of flower, but the shape and colour that attracts them.
Single flowers are a great choice, as double flowers normally aren’t all that useful, with more of aesthetic use than functionality. Double flowers can often have too many leaves which makes it impossible for a bee to reach the nectar and pollen.
Look out for flowers that have bright purple colours. This colour is much easier to see when compared to any other, so plants such as lavender, buddleja and catmint are a must-have.
Another attraction for a lot of bees are any tube shaped flowers. Bees have a long tongue for reaching pollen, and you’ll often seen them fly up to a tubed flower and extract the nectar inside. Foxgloves, snapdragons, honeysuckle and penstemons are some bright yet tube shaped flowers that a bee will go crazy for.
Of course, when it comes to bees surviving, they can’t simply stop because of a season change. It’s for this reason that you should grow flowers that are able to survive all of the conditions they may face. If you go to a garden centre someone will be able to tell you the best options for you.
Become a beekeeper
This may sound like a daunting process, but it isn’t anywhere as stressful as you may think. The equipment that needs purchasing can be found for an affordable price, and the amount of positives that comes from keeping bees is numerous.
You aren’t restricted by the space you have, as a lot of people choose to believe. People in London have been using the small space they have on their balcony or terrace to have a beehive, and they’ve done as well as certain bee hives that are situated in the countryside.
Not only will you be making a great contribution in ensuring the UK has enough bees to continue a healthy well being, but the items bees can introduce are amazing. Fresh honey is like nothing you’ve ever tasted, and can make a great present for a special occasion.
Honeycomb is also something bees produce, and this can be aesthetically pleasing as well as used for eating. There’s something that you should keep in mind if you have bees though. If your bees don’t have access to freshwater near to them, they’ll seek out some themselves. It could be a dog bowl or a neighbor’s swimming pool, which can both prove to be dangerous.
The future of bees
Here at greendealshop.com, we don’t only care about energy efficient installations. If we don’t take care of nature and the animals around us, there will be knock on effects that won’t be beneficial for us. It’s important that we spend the time to understand what is affecting these important insects, ensuring we can continue into a bright future.
If only a few people start to do these methods, you’ll find that we can get the bees back that we lost. We don’t have to wait for a future full of despair. With just a few options we can have a thriving bee population that will make sure our future is bright.