THE SIGNIFICANCE OF HONEY BEES
Honey bees are among the most numerous and efficient pollinator species in the world. Considering that the average honey bee can visit more than 2,000 flowers in one day, these bees greatly increase the chances of a plant producing a fruit or vegetable.
Honey bees are the species most commonly used as commercial pollinators in the US. They are managed and used to pollinate over 100 crops grown in North America, and contribute $15 billion to the US economy every year. Many crops, such as almonds, which contribute $4.8 billion to the US industry each year, rely on honey bees for more than 90% of their pollination.
But honey bees don’t only pollinate crops– they also pollinate wild and native plants, thus contributing to all the environmental and societal benefits attributed to pollinators in general.
HONEY BEE DECLINE
Honey bees are clearly vital parts of our ecosystem, acting as highly efficient pollinators of our food crops as well as for wild flora. We need bees to keep our crops and earth healthy, but in recent years their numbers have been decreasing by the billions. This decline has been linked to several factors, including parasites such as varroa mites, which bite bees and infect them with fatal viruses, the use of pesticides which poison bees, and monoculture farming, which prevents them from having a varied diet.
In 2016, 44% of managed beehives in the US died. The number of managed honey bee colonies in the United States has declined steadily over the past 60 years, from 6 million colonies (beehives) in 1947 to 4 million in 1970, 3 million in 1990, and just 2.5 million today. Overwintering loss rates have increased from the historical rate of 10-15% to approximately 30%, and beekeepers have collectively lost approximately 10 million beehives.
When 1 in every 3 bites of our own food requires a pollinator, now more than ever we must find new and innovative ways to protect these national treasures and preserve the balance of our ecosystem.
We offer educational opportunities. We can come to your school or organization to teach all about honeybees. We cover everything from the importance of honeybees to how to get started in beekeeping. Contact us for more information.