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World Bee Day aims to bring awareness

We celebrate the day annually to draw attention to and acknowledge bees’ critical role in our ecosystem.

World Bee Day is commemorated annually on May 20, and the Johannesburg Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA) looked at these tiny heroes of our food chain.

Did you know?

There are an astonishing 2 755 bee species in sub-Saharan Africa, and about a third are in SA. Do we even need bees? That’s an easy question to answer. Yes. Many people think of bees as a nuisance, but these small and hard-working insects make it possible for many of our favourite foods to reach our table. Simply put, if there were no bees, there would be no more pollination, plants, animals or humans.

They are our food heroes

Estimations are that a third of consumable food relies predominantly on bee pollination. Bee-pollinated crops include canola, lucerne, sunflowers, macadamias, apples, pears, citrus, and stone fruits, such as peaches, apricots, nectarines and plums. In addition, there is the honey industry. Without honeybees’ pollination services, more than 50 crops in SA would fail.

They keep the economy buzzing

More than 50 crops, worth over R10.3b annually to the SA economy, are pollinated by honeybees, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF’s) Sustainable Agriculture Programme. Therefore, any decline in the honeybee population directly threatens food and job security in SA’s extensive agricultural crop industry.

They are under serious threat

Bee numbers globally have plummeted by 90% in the last century, a severe problem. The loss of natural areas, the use of pesticides, especially while crops and weeds are in flower, and a shortage of nectar and pollen sources at certain times of the year are some of the threats reducing the number of honeybees.

Some facts about bees we bet you didn’t know

• It takes 556 worker bees and two million flowers to produce 1.6kg of honey.

• The average honeybee makes only one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime and visits 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip.

• A honeybee can fly up to 9km at an average of 25km/hour.

• The bees’ buzz is the sound of their wings beating 200 times per second.

• The honeybee is the only insect that produces food eaten by man.

• Honeybees never sleep.

• Honey is incredibly healthy and includes enzymes, vitamins and minerals. It’s the only food that contains pinocembrin, an antioxidant associated with improved brain functioning.

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