I’ve always taken evasive action when I’ve heard the noise of an approaching bee. Why be welcoming to a creature who’s sting I’d much rather avoid. Turns out I might need to dial down my apprehension and scale up my appreciation. We need bees and they need us to look after them. When bees gather pollen from flowers, an essential nutrient for their wellbeing, they are also engaged in fertilization, helping many flowers, plants and tries to grow and thrive. The presence of apples, blueberries, strawberries and tomatoes on our plate, to name just a few of the many daily staples we enjoy, is in no small measure due to this vital function.
Aside from pollinating a wide variety of crops that feed us, the diversity of flowers, plants, fruits and seeds that are germinated and maintained by the daily behaviour of bees provides food and shelter to a host of mammals, birds and other insects. Natural vegetation forms a carbon sink, a key bulwark for our survival in the wake of the plumes of carbon emissions, that contribute daily to the burgeoning threat of global warming. In short the survival of our planet and all its inhabitants are deeply indebted to the presence of bees and we all desperately need them to keep doing their thing.
Just the opposite is happening as bee colonies are being decimated at an alarming rate. In recent years research indicates that honeybee populations have declined by more than half. A lot of this is due to human activity. Mobile phone towers, global warming and the widespread deployment of pesticides have all played havoc with the natural biology of bees, unravelling their exquisite natural technology and ultimately leading to their untimely demise en-masse.
While bees are suffering annihilation on a grand scale we’ve still found ways to use their unique resources for our benefits. Bee venom has just been deployed to terminate aggressive breast cancer cells. Now all we have to do is alter our destructive habits to rekindle their existence. Their future is our future and we endanger them at our peril.