World Bee Day: the importance of bees for nature and humans

- 20/05/2020

Nature and humans, we both need bees, as bees help plants to have productive sex. Plant sex is the initiation act for seeds, which are use by plants to reproduce and move around.

World Bee Day: the importance of bees for nature and humans

Some plants ensure the dispersal by producing fleshy fruit bodies around the seed. These fruits and also seeds itself, both are nutritious and delicious for many insects, birds, animals, and also for us. We are not any more foragers from nature, but we have learned to control our nourishing sources by growing crops and fruit plantations. However, our food security still relies on these small buzzers doing the same small act of matchmaking between flowers, as they have been done during millions of years.

Humans have domesticated a few bee species, such as honey bees, but originally to forage extra ecosystem goods, such as honey, wax and pollen-products. Pollination service has become evident later, when natural bee-level has been declined. Many wild bee species are as important or even more important for the average plant in nature and for a small farmer than domesticated honey bees. Among these wild buzzers, the most common and conspicuous are bumble-bees with their large hairy bodies and strong buzz-sound during the flight. There are also many wild bee species, which live solitary life. They all have different life-style and need. Honey bees are largely domesticated and breed animals with the main emphasis to collect more honey and be more tolerant to the manager disturbances. There are always trade-offs – honey bees are industrial creatures, targeting on high-profit foraging areas, leaving small flower groups and naturally diverse habitats without important service. The wild bee species, in contrast, are flexible and adaptive, and are happy to provide matchmaking service even for solitary flowers independent in almost every weather condition – and a small garden owner can profit from wild bees more than from honey bees. There are also very specialized bee species which target on a single or a few plant species, and these plants are also dependent on these bee species.

For the long-term sustainable coexistence of human and nature, we have to keep in mind the needs of all bees. In our EU Horizon 2020 project EFFECT, one of our innovation case studies explores the options to form contracts within the EU Common Agricultural Policy to support honey bees by growing foraging fields for them, and as a side effects, these fields will supporting also many other wild bees as well (either directly or indirectly). Also, as a recent study by Adler and colleagues in PNAS (https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2000074117) showed, flower crops alone are not sufficient for bee life quality, but they need a multitude of flowers over the season, such as sown flower strips. Humans perceive floral service quality of various habitats more contrastingly than pollinators, although, species rich grasslands are stable functional hot-spots for both, say Laura Kütt et al. 2018 in J Veg. Science (https://doi.org/10.1111/avsc.12376). Therefore, in the project EFFECT, we intend to quantify the foraging value of many flower species potentially in garden experiment and in discussions with farmers/honeybee keepers.

Everyone can support small buzzers, even in their small gardens, as flower rich gardens provide food for bees over the whole vegetation period, which hard to achieve in large agricultural areas. Let’s celebrate a multi-bee day, by praising all kinds on bees, such as honey Bees Bumblebees, solitary Bees, and many other winged and Beautiful creatures, which are not even bees, but still are as important for us and the rest of nature.