This is the second of a series of articles by Growth Train that relates to the industries and businesses that our participants are a part of – and which have relevance to sustainability and the environment.
We all know the sweet taste of honey and most of us use it in our daily day as topping on our yoghurt or sweetener in our tea, but if we take a closer look on where the honey comes from and what other miracles these small creatures can perform, you would “bee” amazed.
The product itself – honey – contains a variety of antibacterial and antioxidant properties and therefore is used for several medical products, which is also why it is effective to put it in warm milk or tea if you’re feeling a cold coming.
In addition to the small health tricks, Dr. Ciara Duffy from Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research in Australia states that venom from some honeybee species can kill cancer cells. The venom not only eradicates these cancers, it also breaks up a cancerous cell’s ability to reproduce, which makes it extremely effective in cancer treatments. The impact of honeybee venom needs further research but could be the key to cancer treatments in the future.
The honeybees have quite effective venom, but the bees themselves are very effective as well. They work in structured teams with specific assignments, they communicate within their teams and help each other if a team falls behind. This structure in the beehive assures the production and quality of the honey, which many companies from which we could learn a thing or two.
During the production of honey, bees pollinate flowers, crops and other plants, which are a great part of maintaining biodiversity and vibrant ecosystems for both plants, animals and humans. Pollination is an essential resource for farmers all around the world, since many crops and flowers are dependent on pollination and therefore are vital for their survival. During the past 50 years the volume of agricultural production dependent on pollination has increased with 300 percent, which reflects the importance that pollinators have in sustaining livelihoods across the planet.
The figures above clarify the need and importance of a healthy honeybee ecosystem and due to the increasing value of honey, bees are becoming a bigger part of income and livelihood for smaller farmers around the world. By ensuring higher yields and successful agricultural production, pollinators contribute significantly to world food security and nutrition for the growing population worldwide, and they impact everything from fields, forests and urban ecosystems.
Pollination is already the highest agricultural contributor to yields worldwide, but with improved management we have the potential to increase the overall yield by a quarter. How do we do that? Bees are clever and effective, they choose the closest and best flowers to collect their nectar and they do not compromise on the quality, but we can help by keeping the beehives near large agricultural areas and make sure the flowers and plants are healthy.
Farmers can help maintain pollinator abundance, diversity and health by using innovative technologies that combine local and scientific knowledge about the pollinators and pollination services. Farmers should supply food resources and shelters to pollinators of different species, and most importantly plant different kinds of crops. Through monitoring, research and assessment of pollinators, we can gain valuable information to help farmers, farm advisors and land managers better understand the pollination needs of specific crops.
Bees and pollinators in general are threatened due to human activities, specifically climate change is a part of this shift. There has been a desynchronizing on demand and supply – flowers in bloom and number and diversity of pollinators – which can have serious consequences for all ecosystems in the future. It is therefore critical to put efforts in building a greater diversity of pollinator habitats in agricultural and urban settings to secure the population and survival of pollinators.
Talking about urban settings, the bees contribute to a healthy environment as they pollinate fruit trees and small gardens, which improves the quality of life in urban ecosystems. Beekeeping in the cities is one way to secure living conditions and diversity for bees, which is important for agriculture and ecosystems worldwide.
World Bee Day is an international project that intends to enlighten the importance of pollinators all around the world and ensure their living conditions. Agriculture and all other ecosystems depend on humans to reduce their negative impact on nature and instead focuses on creating fertile conditions for all species.
But how can you “bee” and influence?
As a global citizen you can start by planting a diverse set of native plants, which blooms at different times of the year, you can buy raw honey from local farmers, you can avoid pesticides, fungicides or herbicides in your garden.
As a farmer you can plant different sorts of crops or plant attractive flowers around your field to attract bees.