There are around 20 000 known bee species worldwide and these bees are very important to humans. They play a crucial role in pollination, where they use the hairs on their bodies to carry large grains of pollen between plants enabling fertilisation. The result of this process is the production of fruit, vegetables, seeds, berries, nuts, seed, etc.
Unfortunately, there is a decline in bee populations worldwide and there are many reasons why the numbers are declining, these include – overworking of bees, bee diseases, global warming and farming practices. Experts are concerned about the impact on world food supplies, especially fruits, nuts and vegetables. This could lead to nutritional deficiencies in the human diet as these products are essential sources of vital nutrients. The loss of bees will negatively impact world food security and biodiversity.
Bees also have historical importance, contribute to human health and play a role in maintaining healthy ecosystems.
The production of honey and beeswax are some of the reasons people value bees. People have used bees and bee-related products for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. In traditional medicine, people use honey when treating a wide variety of conditions. Many of these uses do not have scientific backing, but some of the conditions are bronchial asthma, throat infections, tuberculosis, hiccups, fatigue, dizziness, constipation, haemorrhoids, eczema, and ulcers, to name but a few.
Honey contains antioxidants, minerals and enzymes that have many potential health benefits. It contains small amounts of the vitamins and minerals, for eg. calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, etc. and naturally contains sugar.
Honey is valued for it’s anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. It works well as a wound healing dressing. Honey may also be a good alternative for cough medicine for children as it decreases the severity and frequency of a child’s night-time cough. Top of Form
It has benefits for skincare and features in skincare products and ointments.
Other bee products that can benefit human health include: propolis, bee bread, bee pollen, royal jelly, beeswax and bee venom.
Although all pollinators are not bees, bee populations are critical for ensuring a healthy environment. Bees can thrive in a natural or domesticated environment, in our gardens, woodlands, orchards, meadows and other areas where flowering plants are abundant.
The safety of bees and other pollinators must be ensured when using pesticides in our gardens and to prevent pesticide kills, the following must be adhered to.
- Scout the area for pollinators before applying and do not apply when pollinators are active in the area which requires treatment. Do not apply where flowering plants or weeds which are attractive to bees, are present. If spraying is unavoidable, do not apply directly on flowers.
- Choose the appropriate pesticide and adhere to the instructions on the label to prevent pesticide kills. Pay special attention to pollinator warnings or precautions. Do not apply any product that is not registered for the specific crop or application method. If the label indicates a soil drench, do not apply on foliage.
- Do not apply pesticides during windy conditions, especially if foliar application is the only available option. Apply directly to the target plant and ensure minimal spray drift.
- Apply early evening (not at night) when bees have returned to their hives. Bees forage during daylight hours but as the sun begins to set, they return to their hives for the evening. Thus, spraying pesticides in the evening hours can greatly reduce bee mortality.
- Familiarise yourself with the product. Be aware of spray residues and the amount of time they may still be toxic to bees. Remember that sprayed systemic insecticides have long periods of residual activity.
- Insecticides are the most hazardous to bees while fungicides and plant growth regulators have less impact.
- Do not mix pesticides with substances that could be a lure for pollinators.
- Do not apply pesticides to standing water bodies.
- Apply pesticides only when absolutely necessary.
We as humans owe bees a few things: use ALL insecticides only according to the label instructions and only when necessary, plant more food plants for bees, eliminate alien plants and stop killing hives that settle on residential plots. There are master bee catchers who can remove them from your property. Let us consider the vital role they play in nature and contribute to their survival and of course, what would life be without their soothingly good honey!