The Buzz On Why We All Need Bees

The Buzz On Why We All Need Bees

My first memory of anything bee related was as a child in Perth, Australia, when I was stung by several bees playing near our Bottle Brush tree. From then on it was, like with many insects in Australia, me avoiding them where possible.

It’s only as I got older and started to read more about environmental topics and issues that I first became amazed by how amazing bees were as one of Earths creatures and then in the last decade the importance of bees for our broader eco-system.

With 20 May being World Bee Day (…I know) it seemed fitting to write a small ode to these important little flyers.

Pollinators Extraordinaire

Bees are nature's pollinating* superheroes! Responsible for fertilising approximately one-third of the food we consume, their tireless efforts sustain agricultural crops and enrich biodiversity in wild habitats. The impact is far reaching from the obvious fruits and vegetables to fabrics like cotton and various industrial uses.

Pollination is actually a by-product of bees collecting pollen to nourish the hive. As they move between pollen sources the pollen attaches to their bodies and feet and is then transferred between plants. For some bees, their buzzing is just the right frequency to shake the pollen off a plants stalk. It's for this reason that manual pollination, often using small motors, is so time consuming and costly. Hence why it's important we don't lose bees, they truely are irreplaceable!

Other than bees, flies, wasps, moths, beetles, some birds, bats, and lizards also contribute to pollination. However, bees are the most effective pollinators as they collect pollen to stock their nests, which leads them to visit more flowers and carry more pollen than other creatures.

* For those catching up,  is the transfer of pollen from the male part of a flower to the female part of a flower, enabling the plant to reproduce and produce seeds. Pollination is an essential part of the life cycle of many plants worldwide.

Honey, Amazing Honey

Beyond their role as pollinators, bees are the source of the divine nectar known as honey — full of energy and  health benefits. Furthermore, honey boasts natural antibacterial properties, making it a once potent remedy for wounds and infections. Closer to home indulging in a spoonful of honey not only tantalizes the taste buds but also soothes sore throats and coughs. For those plagued by pollen allergies, consuming locally sourced honey may offer relief, desensitizing the body to allergens over time.

Fun Fact: Honey's longevity is legendary; archaeological finds reveal pots of honey in Egyptian tombs, still perfectly edible after millennia.

Ethics of Honey

While honey's allure is undeniable, there ethical considerations surrounding its production. For vegans honey is a no-go, primarily on the grounds that it exploits an animal (versus cruelty, but opinions are divided). Hence why they will often seek alternative sweeteners including agave, maple, date syrup to name a few natural sources.

Conventional beekeeping practices may be unethical. High honey yields are seen as a measure of success, leading to the removal of honey from hives and replacement with a sugar substitute, which harms the bees. Selective breeding for productivity narrows the gene pool, increases disease susceptibility, and causes large-scale die-offs. Disease is also caused by importing different bee species for use in hives. Finally this bee  monoculture then impacts native bees who are key to broader eco-diversity, not just the pollination of a specific crop.

Slow Farmed Honey - At The Source we actually sell a Slow Farmed Honey which comes from Oxfordshire. 'Slow farmed?' I hear you ask.  Slow beekeeping is a sustainable farming approach that involves moving colonies in accordance with the seasons to ensure there is an abundance of nectar and pollen. This honey is harvested from beautiful, unspoiled farmlands that are not aggressively farmed and do not use pesticides or insecticides on the land. These organic dairies and sustainable farms are able to produce the highest quality honey whilst protecting the welfare of the bees.

Raw Honey Only For Me Please! Keep it Raw, keep it pure.

Moreover, discerning between raw honey and its processed counterparts you find in supermarket ailses is crucial. Raw honey retains its nutrient-rich profile whereas pasteurisation (heat treating) compromises its nutritional value and eliminates many of the benefits honey can bring. 

Also Beware of counterfeit honey products, often diluted with sugar syrup — where you can opt for locally sourced, raw honey to savor its full spectrum of benefits. As a general rule avoid honey that is cheap, generic and labelled blended from non-EU sources.

See our article on Raw Honey Benefits

Why are Bees at Risk?

Despite their indispensable role, bees face mounting threats from intensive monoculture practices and pesticide misuse. High-yield beekeeping, habitat loss and exposure to harmful chemicals weaken bee populations and in turn jeopardises ecosystems and food security. It's really as simple as no bees, no food. 

How You Can Bee More Bee-Friendly

We can all do our small part when it comes to protecting bees. Whether that is planting bee-friendly plants in your garden, advocating for wildflower meadows in your community parks and roadside verges, and supporting councils in their 'No Mow May' initiatives. Also choosing organic, locally sourced produce means less pesticide use and where you do eat honey, eat good honey, that is raw and to the extent you can ascertain supports sustainable beekeeping practices.