It's hard to imagine a world without fruits and vegetables. Every time we visit the store we expect the stands to be filled with all our favourites both in season and out because produce can be imported from around the world. We have been blessed with bounty. But now the future of this bounty is becoming uncertain as bees and pollinators are struggling to survive.
Less pollination means less crops which means less fruits and vegetables. It also affects incomes of millions of people and represents billions of dollars of income lost to families in North America. The bee problem isn't just in North American either. The problem is sweeping the globe, England, Europe and Australia are experiencing problems as well.
For most of us, the little bee has been mostly overlooked as a contributor to our good health and welfare. Little did we realize just how much this humble little insect is connected to us, helping us by pollinating our crops and then going so far as to also provide honey too!
Beekeepers, scientists and professionals all around the world are working very hard studying honey bees and everything related to them to try to find the cause of the death of the bees. The term "colony collapse disorder" is used mostly in the USA to describe hives that are found nearly empty, with the honey and only a few bees left behind while the rest of the hive has disappeared. A troubling fact is that no other insects want to take this abandoned honey which is very very unusual. Is something contaminating the honey? Unfortunately, at the moment there are more questions than answers.
Honey bees have put up with various viruses and pests that can kill them or make them sick but it may be that bees have reached their limit of what they can live through. It's suspected that the large number of major pests and viruses such as Varroa Mites, Nosema apis, Nosema cerane, Tracheal Mites and Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus are tipping the scale so much that the health of bees is becoming overwhelmed. The African Hive Beetle has been spreading throughout the USA and is currently near the border in New York. This winged insect has now found it's way into some parts of Ontario.
Someone said recently, "I don't care. I don't like bees." So I asked, "Do you like chocolate?" Sometimes we make statements like that because we haven't taken time to think about what it really means. Chocolate comes from the cocoa plant and of course the cocoa plant blooms and must be pollinated so that the plant can create its seed--the cocoa bean.
It's not just humans that eat fruits and vegetables for their good health. Humans are a big part but just about every creature on the planet interacts with pollinating plants in one way or another. Both domesticated and wild animals eat fruits and vegetables or the seeds from plants or they prey on the creatures that do. Honey bees and pollinating insects are a major part of the cycle of life that connects us all.
Some of this news is unsettling, but we are not without the means to do something about it. We can makes changes to help support the bees and their very important role. Read more about what you can do to help.
What is pollen?
Pollen is actually protein that bees collect from flowers. They add it to their back legs and fly it back to the hive to feed the baby bees. Protein helps bees grow strong and healthy. Pollen comes in many colours from white to red to yellow to black. It's all food for bees.
How do bees help flowers?
Flowers need to spread their pollen to the other flowers around them so that those flowers can make fruit and seeds. Bees help spread the pollen by going from one flower to another. The pollen in their fur gets dusted around in each flower and that's all that's needed to help the flower so it can make fruit and seeds.
A trick that flowers use to get lots bees to come to them is by offering nectar. Bees love nectar and that's what they collect from flowers. They take that home too and make honey from it. Honey is food for bees too and gives them energy so they can work. Bees make lots of honey, more than they could ever eat so this helps us because we can take some honey and the bees will still have lots.
If bees weren't around then the flowers may not get pollinated and then they can't make fruit and seed. That would mean there'd be a lot less fruit available for us to eat.