Have you heard the buzz? Honey bees are great! From giving us honey to having a huge role in our ecosystem, the importance of honey bees is immeasurable. Plus, they're very cute!
Humans owe a lot to bees. Much of the delicious food we enjoy grows because of bees. Although honey bees aren’t in danger of extinction like many other bee species, their health is essential to the survival and strength of all bees. That's quite a big job for a little bug.
The Importance of Honey Bees
Getting back to how honey bees help humans, let's talk food. According the US Department of Agriculture, some scientists say that every 1 in 3 bites of food we eat exists because of bees and other pollinators. These foods include fruits, nuts and vegetables.
“They play a critical role in the transfer of pollen from flower to flower, which is called pollination,” Sandra Power, a horticulturist at the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA), said. “Many plant species—not all—need a pollinator in order to produce fruit and seeds. That in turn provides food for wildlife and helps to maintain a healthy ecosystem.”
New York State even has a plan in place to help bees and other pollinators.
If you're intrigued by bees, there's an event happening at the hive in Rockefeller Park, located at 75 Battery Pl., that you'll love. The BPCA will host Meet the Beekeeper on Friday, Sept. 23, 1:30-2:30pm. During a presentation and talk led by Alveole beekeepers, bee lovers will learn about the importance of urban beekeeping and its benefit to sustainability efforts in Battery Park City and throughout New York City.
History of Honey Bees
Now, in fairness, some flowers can self pollinate or even get pollen from a strong gust of wind. But here's some perspective: Honey bees pollinate about 40% of our food crops, Power explained. “That's important,” Power said. “We've had a relationship with honey bees for 9,000 years. Since we've farmed the land. We've carried them with us and benefited from their honey and beeswax.” Interestingly enough, honey bees are not native to the United States. They were brought over by early settlers and have become a domestic species.
“I think part of why everyone is so fascinated by them is the relationship we have with honey bees is very long. It's almost in our DNA. There are lots of different types of bees that are very important, but honey bees because of their social aspect—there's a lot of fascination around them.” So, what is this social aspect of honeybees? They form colonies, they have a queen, lots of female workers and a smaller percentage of drones (the guys who mate with the queen). “Bees have personalities, too. Some are docile, some are aggressive,” Power explained. This sounds like quite the bee soap opera. Maybe nature can call it, The Bold and the Bee-utiful?
Honey Bees in Winter
Honey bees live throughout the four seasons. The bees at the hive in Battery Park City in Rockefeller Park are rather docile. Very chill, Power explained. They stay in their hive in the winter, and they're able to maintain a constant temperature. Pretty cool.
And getting back–once again–to food talk, the Battery Park bees’ honey was just harvested, Power said, adding that it’s very nice of them to share this delicious substance with humans.
What You Can Do To Help Bees
According to scientists, climate change impacts the bee population worldwide as unprecedented floods, high temperatures, and forest fires increase globally. But Dr. Asli Samanci, a food scientist, bee expert and founder of Bee&You there are ways to fight these challenges.
"Our lifestyle and approaches to saving energy and water sources would contribute to the efforts to control the adverse effects of climate change on Earth and, consequently, the bee population," Samanci said. "However, there are still simple actions that we can take to save the bee population. For instance, we can plant bee-friendly flowers in our garden."
All of these actions can help. As Samanci said, "If there is a bee, there is life." Power agrees that there are many things homeowners can do to help this important animal. What bees, pollinators and all living things need is habitat—a home. For bees, this includes having places to eat and suitable plants to pollinate. Power suggested even talking to neighbors about how to save bees. “Maybe take a pledge with your neighbors to avoid chemical pest management,” Power said. Pesticides can cause all kinds of problems. They can disorient bees and stress them.” You can also help bees by providing a continuous source of nectar and pollen by planting things that are in bloom from early spring to fall. Another tip is to ask your nursery or garden center if the plants you're purchasing are grown without chemicals.
"We can maintain our yard without chemical pesticides and prefer biological solutions for our flowers and trees," Samanci added.