Today is the final day of our Greening week! I hope you have enjoyed the posts so far, and that they have provided you with some new and interesting information. My thanks go to the undergraduate members of the PEET who have collated and prepared the information and blog posts for you this week. Our last post focuses on the happy topic of bees in relation to increasing biodiversity.
What is your first impression about bees? Do they just sting? Or just produce honey? Honey bees actually play a major role in biodiversity, yet their numbers are shrinking. Why is this of importance to us?
Biodiversity could be defined as the degree of variation of life forms within a particular species or ecosystem, and it can indicate how healthy an ecosystem is (Fuller, Irvine, Devine-Wright, Warren & Gaston, 2007). Bees are a species that enriches the biodiversity on Earth. However, this is not sufficient to signify their importance. Pollination, which is an essential process in honey production of bees, is a key step in nurturing most flowers and fruits. As Klein et al. (2007) reveal, 70% of the 124 main fruit and vegetable crops produced directly for worldwide consumption are dependent on animal pollinators, especially bees. In economic terms, benefits of insect pollination for the world agriculture amounted to €153 billion in 2005, which is about 9.5% of the total value of global commercial food production (Gallai, Salles, Settele & Vaissière, 2009). Klatt et al. (2013) particularly investigated the contribution of bee pollination to strawberry fruits in comparison to those pollinated by wind and other media. Bee pollination was found to improve both quantity and quality of fruits: more appealing red colour, greater fruit weight, longer shelf life, lower sugar–acid–ratios and fewer malformations.
Honey bees facilitate our agriculture and biodiversity much more than generally recognized. However, bees are mysteriously disappearing – despite the absence of dead bodies, the bee population has declined rapidly since last century (Wilson-Rich, 2012). This has raised the cost of growing crops because of increasing use of farming technology to meet the demand. The resultant economic implication in US is estimated to be over $15 billion dollar. What can we do to halt the worrying trend?
All bees love flowers. By enriching your gardens with bee friendly plants, you are helping the bee population. For more tips on choosing and growing suitable bee friendly plants, check this out: http://www.beefriendlygardenplants.co.uk/index.html. There is a hive of flowers sorted by colour and by season.
If your garden is limited to the box by your window, bee-friendly seeds may make a more appropriate alternative. Bee Friendly Seeds (http://beefriendlyseeds.com/) supplies insecticide and pesticide free seeds sourced in the UK. (This could be a handy idea for the Mother’s Day coming up 🙂
In addition to catering wild bees, you may devote yourself to keeping bees. It’s not impossible in Sheffield as our Students’ Union has already made a step. See http://su.sheffield.ac.uk/get-involved/green-space/our-beehives. You will meet other enthusiastic beekeepers and have the chance to involve in Beekeeping Society.
All in all, honey bees are vitally important creatures who provide us with food and flowers. Besides pollinating, they also build honey combs using beeswax, which are widely used in medication, cosmetics, candles, etc. If you have an empty slot for the weekend in your diary, why not have a date with your “honey”? I’m pretty sure they won’t sting you when you are in love with them. Let’s BEE happy!