Why Humankind need Honeybees

Honeybees are the most important pollinators of food crops in the world!

DID YOU KNOW....that an estimated one third of the food we eat on a daily basis are dependent on pollinators – mainly by bees!

It is a scary reality that the earth and most of the plants that supply food to people will be lost without bees.

An estimated 87 well known food products are (to different degrees) dependent on insect pollinators. These include: fruit, vegetables, nuts, oilseeds and berries. Under which some of these count: onion, canola, kiwi, pear, watermelon, pumpkin, orange, strawberry, avos, apples, blueberries and sunflower.

But, there’s also a long list of food crops that are not exclusively dependent on bees, but that produce greater yield if insects pollinate their blossoms.

Pollination by insects is worth more than R10 billion per year in the South African context, according to a fact sheet of the

South African National Biodiversity Institute (Sanbi). It will therefore be an economical disaster for crop farmers if the honeybee populations suddenly decrease.

With habitat disturbance, diseases and the injudicious use of chemicals, this is already a reality (not only in SA, but also in the rest of the world): a great threat for our already declining honeybee populations.

The Department of zoology and entomology, together with the Honey research group, did research to establish how bees react to different food sources. Poor nutrition seems to be one of the reasons why populations are declining; and it was established that a diet consisting of pollen from different plants are better than a diet consisting of a single pollen source. Different pollen sources also increase the immunity of the bees.

But how can I, as a gardener, HELP THESE PRECIOUS INSECTS?

Bees can travel up to 5 km from their hives to collect nectar. A garden of any size can contain flowering plants and if bees range over a variety of different flowering plants, they are stronger and healthier. Honeybees help your garden grow beautiful – not only do they bring life to your garden and make flowers and other plants lush and abundant; by attracting them to your garden, you can (slowly but surely) have a part in the increase of healthy bee populations and have an positive effect on food security in South Africa.

1. Plant “bee friendly” flowering plants in your garden: Indigenous plants that grow naturally in your area are the best. Consider: Aloe, Erica, Protea and Vygie.

2. Plant flowers with a single row of petals, rather than flowers with more than one row – apparently they are more attractive to bees, have more pollen and are easier for bees to reach the pollen. Examples of these include: Cosmos, Sunflower, Roses, Zinnia and Marigolds.

3. Plant yellow, white, blue and purple flowers – these colours attract bees more than pinks, oranges and reds.

4. Plant flowers that bloom all year round so that there is a constant food source for the bees.

5. Plant flowering vegetables and fruit bearing plants like berries, melons, squash, cherry trees – not only will you keep the bees happy, you will also provide food for your family.

6. And while you’re at it, why not plant some fresh herbs as well? Mints, sage, rosemary, lavender and thyme are all very attractive to honeybees.

7. Don’t forget to provide some drinking water – use a shallow birdbath and put some flat stones inside (bees are not able to land in deep water).

8. Stop using pesticides as bees are susceptible to these – aim to use natural remedies and if you have to spray, do so after dusk when pollinators are least active.

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