The Strange Alien World Inside Ours That Gives Us Our Fruits and Veggies

Without these weird and wonderful creatures living in a society that demands total sacrifice, we would not have the abundant variety of fresh produce that we enjoy. Saturday, August 18th is a day to celebrate them.

A Beautiful Western Honey Bee Sitting And Pollinating Of Bloom O
A honeybee pollinates a raspberry.

There is a world in which the social structure is so foreign to the one humans have created that it might make you cringe. Yet, the very survival of the creatures who inhabit it is dependent on the rigidity of the rules of interaction and division of labor. This world is not far away in another galaxy. It coexists with us right here on Earth. And, in fact, the survival of humans is dependent upon it.

It is a world ruled and dominated by females. That may sound like a bad deal for the males, but it may very well be the opposite. The boys here don’t have to do any of the work, and their only job is to have sex with the most popular girl in town, who just happens to be the ruler. Every other lady in this strange world never gets to have sex, and they do all the work. Oh, and if there is ever any threat to the community, the females are expected to sacrifice their lives to save their queen. And they gladly do so.

By now you may have guessed what kind of kingdom we are talking about. It’s the world of a honeybee colony. These colonies are like finely tuned machines. They are incredibly efficient and able to produce much more than they consume. Every bee has a specific function, and those jobs are strictly divided among the various types of bees in the hive—the queen, the workers and the drones. The queen is that female that the entire colony exists to serve with their lives. The worker bees are all female, and they do everything–building the hive, keeping it clean and tidy and providing the food. And the drones…well.. they are there only to mate with the queen.

A honeybee colony is a marvel of nature that without them, humans would face a severe threat of famine. It’s often repeated that every third bite of food we eat is directly or indirectly dependent on pollination by bees. That claim is not entirely accurate but has some validity. Most of the world is fed on grains like wheat, corn and rice. None of those require pollination by bees. So by total quantity, that claim is not quite right. But when it comes to the number of different foods that we depend on in our food supply, it is not far from the truth. According to the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), about 30% of the world’s food crops need honeybees to produce. Therefore, many of our fruits and vegetables would disappear if bees died out.

Beekeeping,Beehives in the Blooming Cherry Orchard,Nature Landscape
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) especially impacted commercial beehives. The stress of frequent relocation and the lack of variety in the bees diets made them more susceptible than wild bees.

Over the past decade, there has been a lot of attention drawn to a threat to honeybees known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Beginning in about 2006, beekeepers began to report a massive loss of bees in their hives. The alarm was sounded, and scientists all over the world started studying the problem. They found that the cause was a combination of many factors. But fortunately, their work has paid off, and the decline has been slowed significantly. We are indeed glad because many of the delicious fruits and veggies that we enjoy would disappear without the help of these hard-working, selfless bees.

It is estimated that there are anywhere from 500 to 750 different types of edible fruits and vegetables in the world. That number only considers the primary distinctions between a fruit or a vegetable. For instance, all kinds of apples are counted as just one type in that number. But there are over 7,500 varieties of apples! Assuming that each other fruit or veggie also has thousands of different varieties, then the amount can be multiplied by thousands. What a tragedy it would be to lose that marvelous cornucopia.

August 18 is National Honey Bee Day in the United States. So as you eat your fruit and veggie-laden meals on this day, take a few moments to remember our amazingly industrious friends. They live and breathe to serve others—their queen, their colony, the environment and the health of all humans.

Some of the latest on the efforts to save bees.

Activities you can participate in to celebrate National Honey Bee Day. From the National Honey Bee Wikipedia page:

Activities for World Honey Bee Day

  • Collect local wildflower seeds and spread them to where nothing is growing.
  • Plant a bee friendly garden with native and nectar producing flowers. Use plants that can grow without extra water and chemicals. Native plants are the best to grow in any region.
  • If you have land to put honey bees on, learn about how to raise them! Consider allowing a beekeeper to maintain beehives on your property. Beekeeping For Dummies is a good book to start with.
  • If you can’t raise bees, talk to your friends who have space and get them interested in raising bees.
  • Encourage beekeepers to open their apiary to friends.
  • Organize a honey tasting with your friends. There are lots of flavors of honey depending on what flowers the bees visited.
  • Have a picnic or party with a bee theme! People can wear Bee costumes Or at least wear yellow and black!
  • Buy some mead and learn about this amazing drink! Consider learning to brew mead! It is easier than making beer, though you should age it for 2 years for an amazing flavor. See if there are any meaderies near you, or you can find mead on Amazon.
  • Get to know your local beekeepers. Ask them what season they will have honey for sale. You might get a good price if you buy a whole 5 gallon bucket. Friends can come over and fill their honey jars. Honey is the best “green” sweetener you can buy.
  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/21481178256/permalink/10154325711493257/
  • Learn about the dangers and risks with homeowner pesticides and chemicals. Whenever possible, choose non-damaging and non-chemical treatments in and around the home.

Why bees die when they sting

The Honeybee Conservancy page. Good work here to save the bees.

Trailer for a documentary about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)

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