Why are bees so important?
As you might have seen in Joe's video blog posted recently, we did some amazing things together last year. Our fantastic customers planting wild-flower seeds all over the UK will no doubt make a real and genuine difference to many bees this year- increasing their chances of survival and helping to create ongoing healthy bee populations.
Just Bee are committed to continuing with everything we do (and more) into the future. Bees are some of the hardest working and important creatures on the planet. We owe a lot to this amazing, yet still often under-appreciated, insect. These fascinating and amazing creatures provide us with our favourite fruits and vegetables, delicious honey, and many of the flowers in our gardens. They are also important for the overall health of the environment and our farms. The health and well-being of bees is a strong indicator of how healthy the overall environment around us is.
The perfect pollinators
Pollination is the word we use for how plants reproduce. Pollination occurs when the male part of the flower meets the female part of another flower. Plants obviously cannot walk around to do this on their own but without this process a plant’s seed and fruit would not be able to be formed. While some plants can pollinate themselves or rely on the wind to do it for them, many plants need animals to assist with this pollination process and bees are an extremely important part of that process.
Bees are responsible for pollinating almost 20% of all flowering plant species worldwide and (maybe most importantly to us) approximately 400 different agricultural types of plant that we use as food sources. Put in simple terms, around a third of everything we eat comes from bee pollination. It's not only food crops that rely on bee pollination either, crops like cotton that many of our clothes are made from are also pollinated by bees.
Bees aren't the only pollinators, other creatures like butterflies, ants, birds and beetles all play their part but none of these could ever replace the work that bees do. Bees need pollen to feed their larvae, so they take a far more active role in the process. Other pollinators may only visit flowers to drink nectar and the pollen that gets stuck to them and transferred to another plant is more of a 'happy accident'. Bees are also particularly effective pollinators because they often visit one type of flower for a whole outing and a much higher level of pollination is achieved overall. Bumblebees are particularly good at pollinating due to their large size which makes them very effective at dispersing pollen across the flowers and fruits they visit.
It's not only humans that enjoy the literal fruits of the bees hard labour, the pollination of plants is not only essential to us but also to many wild animals that also feed on plants, fruits and berries. Many animals rely on them for a continuous and sustainable food source. Without bees, pollination and reproduction would be practically impossible for many plant species.
Bees are the perfect pollinators and it's the main reason they are just so important. The effective pollination of plants is critical to both us and the nature around us.
The world around us
Flowering plants provide bees with nectar and pollen, which will feed their entire colony and in return bees are extremely important for our wild-flowers and natural ecosystem. Our countryside would be far less impressive without bees, they pollinate around 80% of all European wild-flowers including poppies, bluebells, and many shrubs and trees. Some common plants such as clovers and foxgloves rely almost solely on bees for their pollination. Many of the UK’s bee species are very well adapted to certain plants and are crucial to our varied and beautiful wild flowers. The early bumblebee (named due to being one of the earliest bees to emerge in spring) is a small and agile bee which allows it to easily enter more 'drooping' shaped flowers like comfrey; garden bumblebees have longer tongues which are more suited to pollinating foxgloves and honeysuckle, plants with deep flowers they can easily reach into with these longer tongues.
Our natural flora is heavily reliant on bees- 76% of plants that are favoured by bumblebees have seen a decline alongside the bumblebees they need for pollination. This is extremely worrying as not only does this mean a loss of natural landscapes but also the habitats that many other animals need to survive. It's almost impossible to overstate how much bees play an essential role in the natural balance of the planet. It's important not just for us that bees survive, but for every living thing.
In the UK many insects have suffered number declines in the last 10 years. Among them are several bees. The shrill carder bee , once a common sight, it is now considered to be at risk of extinction. The bilberry bumblebee was widely found in the cooler north of Britain but now appears to be in decline too, which could possibly be linked to climate change as well as habitat loss and pesticide use. A rare and declining species known as the six-banded nomad bee is now only found in a single area in Devon.
Bees are essential for our natural landscapes and biodiversity. Bees perpetuate the spread of floral growth across our fields and common land which not only provides attractive gardens and countryside for us to enjoy but is also essential for creating habitats for other animals such as insects and birds. A large decline in bee populations would be a disaster for our wildlife. Common wild plants may start to disappear due to lack of pollination. Animal species could start to struggle to find food. Herbivores, who depend on certain plant species for food, would be disastrously affected. They could simply become extinct if those plants ceased to exist because they were no longer being pollinated by bees.
Bees are easily amongst the most important insects in nature. Without bees to help the growth of natural habitats and create food for many animal species, much of our planet’s wildlife could slowly disappear over time. That is why bees are so important and why at Just Bee we will continue to do all we can to save our bees. It's not only our goal that our honeybees are happy and well but all species of wild bees are thriving and healthy too. We hope you will all continue to help and support us in that aim during 2023 and beyond.