The Importance of Bees: Small Yet Mighty

July 2019

By Clara Logan, Director, Mastro Montessori Academy

Bees have been around for approximately 30 million years. With over 25,000 species, bees are vital for the successful pollination of farming agriculture, wild plants, approximately one third of our food sources, and one sixth of all flowering plant species. While pollination can occur from sources other than bees, such as bats, birds, other insects, some mammals, and the wind, bees are one of the most important pollinators. Many of the foods we consume directly, such as apples, broccoli, corn, cucumbers, almonds, squash, and others, are pollinated directly from bees. Bees also help pollinate a variety of plant species we do not directly consume, such as foraging crops (annual or biennial crops, which are grown to be utilized by grazing or harvesting as a whole crop). Bees play an integral role in the food chain by fertilizing plants and allowing them to be a food source for many organisms. Bees also help provide habitats for birds, insects, and other animals by maintaining floral growth through pollination.

Currently in the United States the bee population is about half of what it was at the end of World War II, and bees continue to die at an alarming rate. Climate change has devastating effects on bee populations. With the increase in temperatures, plants begin to bloom earlier which in turn changes the foraging cycle for bees. The warmer weather can also lead to an increase in pest populations, including some parasite populations which can greatly harm the bee population. Other factors contributing to the reduction of the bee population include the widespread use of pesticides, disease, natural habitats being destroyed, and food shortages. Humans are destroying the bee’s natural habitat and in turn their food sources. If the bees’ food sources are depleted, humans as well will not have enough to eat. Pesticide use and other chemicals used for landscaping and growing crops can cause bees to experience high levels of stress. This stress can cause them to abandon their hives or cause the bee’s immune system to fail, thus compromising the whole colony of bees. Neonicotinoids are a common chemical in pesticides which are poisoning bees and other pollinators.

Bees and other pollinators are crucial to agriculture and continuation of natural plant communities. Without bees our food sources could seriously decline. Bees also stimulate the economy by providing a multi-million-dollar honey industry, in addition to the plethora of other products derived from beeswax and propolis (a sealant created by bees when they construct their hives).

You can easily help the bee population thrive by providing more plants and habitats for them in your own garden and creating bee safe environments. It is critical that we work hard to protect and preserve bees and their natural habitat. Identify the specific flowers and plants native to your area that support bees and plant them to make a small pollinator garden. Additionally, reducing or eliminating the use of pesticides and other chemicals that harm bees helps to protect them. Educating others on the importance of bees is another crucial component of increasing bee population, so they may continue to do their important job. Once we understand the amazing complexity of the honeybee and the huge role they play in the ecosystem and our lives, we should take the necessary steps to help protect them and provide them with more natural habitats. Simply put, bees are some of the most important insects on the planet to humans. We must focus on protecting them from the environmental harm that is devastating their colonies.

Please make a conscious choice to protect bees and help save the planet!

Fun Bee Facts:

  1. Bees have a highly complex social order; every bee playing a specific role.
  2. Each hive is led by a queen, who is the only bee able to sting multiple times and able to lay eggs.
  3. Worker bees are all female bees.
  4. Drones are unfertilized male bees and do not serve a specific purpose within the hive, but are integral in mating with other female queens that are trying to start their own colony.
  5. Depending on the season, there are between 20,000 and 80,000 bees per hive.
  6. Bees do not make decisions as individuals, but do so collectively as an entire colony.
  7. Bees communicate through dance, telling other bees where food sources are, and through pheromones.
  8. In the tragic, recent fire at Notre Dame, all of the bees survived. Notre Dame housed three beehives, each consisting of about 60,000 bees.

Thinking of planting your own pollinator-friendly garden? Here are some of the plants that will thrive in the New Jersey climate, attract these amazing bees, and perhaps butterflies and hummingbirds as well. Adding some of these gorgeous blooms to your garden will also benefit your vegetable garden!

  • Little Goldstar Black-Eyed Susan
  • Magnus Coneflower
  • Angelina Stonecrop
  • Lavender
  • Spirea

 

Clara Logan moved to Monmouth County from Maryland in July of 2017, taking over as the Director of Mastro Montessori Academy located in Shrewsbury, NJ. Mastro Montessori is a private, AMI Montessori school serving children ages 15 months through sixth grade. Mrs. Logan earned her AMI Certification from The Montessori Institute in Denver, her Master’s Degree in Montessori Education, and an undergraduate degree in Sociology. She has brought green initiatives to Mastro Montessori and is committed to helping the school reduce their carbon footprint.