The honeybee: indispensable for nature and mankind

Photo credit: Amy Goldstein, Flickr Creative Commons (www.flickr.com/photos/amylovesyah)

Editor’s note: The following story examines the honeybee and its importance to our ecosystem. For those with a desire to help preserve the habitats of these creatures, the Environmental Management Division is giving community members an opportunity to help. USAG Ansbach is planning a project with the beekeeper association in Ansbach to build and sustain a beehive at Soldiers Lake at Urlas. Those interested in participating should call the Environmental Management Division at 09802-83-3422 or DSN 467-3422.

Story by Pia Amberger, Environmental Management Division, USAG Ansbach DPW

ANSBACH, Germany (June 20, 2017) — Did you know the honeybee is an important supporting pillar in our ecosystem?

Bees don’t just provide us with honey for our bread. With their pollination services the honeybees also contribute significantly to the biodiversity on our earth.

In recent years, however, different stress factors have led to a weakening of bee health and, more often, to bee death. A major cause for this, is the increasing industrialization of our agriculture, as well as more and more changes in climate. Bees suffer from the use of pesticides or the cultivation of genetically modified organisms. Due to the establishment of large monocultures the bees have a harder time finding anything to eat.

In some regions of the world, for example in large areas of China, bees have already completely disappeared due to environmental catastrophes. In these regions, pollination has to be done manually by workers with a great deal of effort to ensure sufficient agricultural yield.

Of the estimated more than 20,000 different bee species worldwide, around 560 are native to Germany. These species are indispensable for our ecosystem and our landscapes. With their pollination, they contribute significantly to the conservation of biodiversity. They help with the maintenance and renewal of flowering plants and also with the cultivation of fruits and seeds of wild plants and crops, which serve as a food source for many wild animals. Don’t forget, it is only by the pollination of a seed plant that fertilization and thus the formation of seeds can happen.

When it comes to fruit growing, vegetable cultivation or horticulture, many important agricultural yields in Germany (around 85 percent) depend on the pollination by bees or need it to ensure that the harvest is stable and larger:

  • Many types of fruits (such as apple, cherries, plums and berries);
  • Almost all oil seeds (e.g. rapeseed, thistle and flax);
  • Some types of vegetables (melons, cucumbers, gourds, peas and beans).

In spite of their importance, bee-death has steadily increased throughout the world over the past years. The phenomenon that complete bee nations disappear, was first observed in the U.S. in 2006. In German it is called “Bienen-Kollaps,” or bee collapse. The bees that can leave their hives without coming back, which leads to the starvation of the bee queen and the young.

The bee population in Europe and the U.S. has declined by as much as 30 percent in recent years. In the Middle East, that number is 85 percent. How fatal these numbers can be for man’s life is only shown when one considers the contributions bees bring to our ecosystem. Most people still regard the little animals as nothing more than honey suppliers, despite the fact that they secure a large portion of the food we consume. Every third bite is dependent on the bee. For example, without the bee there wouldn’t be much left of a hamburger. Salad, onions, ketchup and mustard all need honey.

Mankind and nature rely heavily on bees

Additional studies from 2015 have confirmed that the extinction of the bees would have fatal consequences for humans and nature alike. About a third of the food we eat only grows because of bee pollination. Without their pollination the harvest of popular fruit types like apples, pears and plums as well as many vegetables could become luxury goods, which many people would no longer be able to afford. This in turn could lead to vitamin deficiencies. Cardiovascular diseases and certain types of cancer could also start to occur more frequently than before.

The plant world would also change drastically. Without bees many species would not be pollinated and the diversity would be lost. This of course would then also affect the animal world. For example, many birds, beetles and insects feed off of plant seeds.

We want to help the local nature and the honeybees

If we consider all these things, we end up with the conclusion that it is very desirable to protect bees and their habitat as they are very important for us and our immediate environment.

This is especially important in regard to Albert Einstein’s quote: “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

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