We find that many students of Prep School age are fascinated by the wildlife around them. We frequently hear that birds are “pretty”, butterflies are “beautiful”, and pigs are “yummy”, but even at a young age, they are starting to appreciate what many animals do for us and how without them, our lives would be very different. It is an area that we feel has significant importance and we endeavour to explain why protecting animals, insects, and plants is so crucial.
One such insect is the bee, which most children never give much thought to, other than being scared of their stings! As the leading British School in Hong Kong, we are concerned that bee populations have been diminishing globally over the last decade. Bees are the world’s primary pollinator’s consuming nectar from flowers while also getting pollen stuck to their bodies which they then transfer to other plants. In turn, this fertilises the plants allowing them to produce fruit and seeds. Indeed, without bees, many species, including humans, may die out. Here are ten interesting facts about why bees are so incredible!
- 76% of commercially produced crops rely on pollinators to fertilise them. As bees are the primary pollinator, we must protect their habitats and reduce the use of pesticides. Without bees, approximately one in three mouthfuls of food would disappear from our tables. However, more importantly, significant amounts of plant life would become extinct, leading to more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and global warming.
- Scientists have realised the need to promote agroecological farming, which in laymen’s terms, means more organic farms. Evidence suggests that organic farms attract around 50% more insects, birds, and wild plants. Perhaps more alarmingly, organic farms attract around 75% more bees, which emphasises the damage that pesticides do to the bees’ habitats. While farmers may not welcome wildflowers amongst their crops, they attract bees and, with it, more successful yields.
- There are in the region of 20,000 different species of bees around the world. While humans often immediately associate bees with honey, that isn’t always the case; some merely help plants reproduce! The most common form of bee that doesn’t produce honey is the solitary bee, which doesn’t live in a hive and doesn’t have a queen. They don’t mix with other bees except during the short mating season but do a phenomenal job protecting our planet!
- Some bees can damage property, such as the leafcutter bee. There can live in bricks and mortar within your home, but you should never attempt to kill; just try to encourage them to live elsewhere. They tend to live alone and are equally as happy in rotten wood and leaves along with thick-stemmed plants.
- Raw honey has a multitude of health benefits for humans and is a natural food, which, if stored correctly, will never go off! Honey, along with beeswax, has been used for thousands of years, and in ancient Egypt, honey was offered to the gods. The Greek and Roman empires also valued honey but did you know that bees must fly over 55,000 miles to produce 500 grams of honey and an average hive only makes around eleven kilograms during a season.
- Bees are incredibly responsive to changes in their habitat and the environment around them. On commercial farms where pesticides are frequently used, some species of bees are almost non-existent, which could potentially have devastating consequences. However, conversely, it is estimated that a 10% increase in the bees’ natural habitat will lead to over a 30% increase in the number of bees and their diversity. The Soil Association estimates that an organic grain field can have up to seven times as many bees as a farm that uses chemicals.
- Bees communicate in the hive using a “waggle dance” to inform other bees of other good food sources. The food can be around six miles away, so the moves need to be precise to get the message across. It is almost like asking for directions to a restaurant in another town without knowing the road links or relying on a Sat Nav!
- Beehives will only ever have one Queen at a time, and the sole job of male drone bees is to mate with the Queen. There will be hundreds in the hive, so competition is fierce! They rely on the female worker bees for food as they will never leave the hive. It is estimated that female worker bees outnumber males by around 10:1.
- It is a common misconception that bees only have two wings when indeed, they have four. Two wings link together for flying but are separate when they are not!
- There are several charities around the world working to save bees. Their objective is to protect wildlife and inform farmers of the benefits of organic farming.