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World Bee Day: Why pollinators ‘bee-long’ in our ecosystems

World Bee Day gives us a chance to appreciate the range of products and benefits that we garner from bees and other pollinating insects. However, the bee and pollinator population is in decline and in need of help from humans to protect them.

WORLD Bee Day, celebrated annually on May 20, is a chance for us to recognise the hardworking little insects that play a crucial role in our gardens and our planet’s ecosystems. World Bee Day is also a day of awareness as bees increasingly face many threats, including habitat loss and poisoning due to pesticide use and climate change. Bees, however, aren’t the only pollinators. Honeybees are often kept and taken care of by beekeepers, allowing their population to thrive. However, wild and solitary bees and other pollinating insects, such as butterflies and wasps, are on the decline and the most in need of our help.

The importance of bees

Bees produce important products

Bees provide us with many products that we use every day. Bees produce honey, wax, pollen, propolis, royal jelly and bee venom. All these products have been used throughout history as medicine and can be beneficial for human health.

Bees are pollinators

A pollinator is any creature that can carry pollen from the male part of a plant, called the stamen, to the female part, the stigma.

Without them, many fruits and vegetables would not produce seeds and therefore could not reproduce.

Pollinators are critical to the survival of many species of wildlife. As a result of their pollination, seeds can grow into plants that are harvested for food, such as fruits, vegetables and coffee, and cotton which is used to cater to a myriad of our needs such as clothing and bedding.

Without pollinators, our food would be a lot more boring, scarce and less nutritious. They are essential to a healthy environment.

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Bees give us honey

Bees are mostly known for producing honey which has a wide range of benefits.

Honey has been used since ancient times for medicinal purposes.

There are many benefits of honey, including its ability to help treat colds, coughs, flu, sore throats, wounds, burns, cuts, scrapes, bruises, rashes, insect bites, sunburns and skin conditions.

Honey is also loaded with antioxidants, enzymes and vitamins which can benefit your health.

  • Antioxidants protect against free radicals, which cause damage to cells.
  • Enzymes help break down food into its basic components, including sugars, proteins and fat.
  • Vitamins provide energy and promote healthy skin, hair and nails.

Interesting facts about bees 

Pinetown resident Bill Van Den Bosch, a registered beekeeper with the South African Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, has been keeping bees for more than 20 years and offered some interesting facts about the pollinating insects.

Bill Van Den Bosch has kept bees for more than 20 years. Photo: Submitted

According to Van Den Bosch:

– Old bees don’t return to the hive in the evening. They spend the night on flowers, and if they have the chance to see another sunrise, they resume their activity by bringing pollen or nectar to the colony. They do this sensing that the end is near. No bee waits to die in the hive so as not to burden the others.

– Bees have cold blood like all insects, yet at the colony level, they are a warm mega-organism.

– There are bees that bring pollen and bees that bring nectar – never will a pollen-collecting bee change its task to bring nectar and vice versa.

– Although dandelions are yellow, their pollen collected by bees turns orange in the mixing urn with nectar.

– The record for keeping a bee colony alive during winter was 356 days without them going out for cleansing flights.

– Bees can be useful to humans even after they have died as they are used in the form of poultices to treat joint pain.

– Bees never sleep.

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Plants that attract bees

Bees and other pollinators are on the decline due to factors such as pesticides, diseases and mites, destruction of their habitats, global warming and air contamination.

Van Den Bosch recommended some plants you can plant in your garden to attract bees and other pollinators. “Each plant has a pollen rating, and the pollen amount is tracked through pollen levels in the honey. The eucalyptus plant is one of the best plants for bees, with a high pollen rating. The rating is scaled from 1–4. Eucalyptus plants are rated 4/4. Other plants that are great for attracting bees are blackjacks, dandelions and weeds like grasses. A lot of people don’t like these plants in their garden, I know, but it’s important that we do all we can to help these amazing little creatures,” said Van Den Bosch.

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