Welcome to the world of recognition, bees! It’s a bit sad that it takes a population dying out to realize it’s importance but as they say…better late than never! (Not to take away from your big day or anything, sweet honey bee.)
Today, March 20th, 2018, marks the first ever official #WorldBeeDay!
I know they can be scary, and their sting kind of hurts a bit, and they can get really annoying during your summertime picnics, and sometimes everyone likes to think bees and wasps are the same thing, but really bees are doing a whole lot of good for us! It’s about time we thanked them!
So what’s the big fuss about bees anyway? Well for a start bees, primarily honey bees, are arguably the worlds most important pollinator of crops. We’ll lay out some quick facts for you.
- 1/3 of food consumed today across the globe relies solely on pollination from bees.
- 80% of US crops alone are dependent on bees and they contribute $15 billion annually to US crop production!
- Bees contribute greatly to economies; consider the fact bees contribute about £650 million to the UK economy annually!
- Bees pollinate at least 70 different types of crops.
- Like canaries in the coal mines, bees are excellent at telling us when things aren’t right; the health and abundance of bee populations is an indicator of the health of the wider environment as a whole.
That last one is pretty important because if the bees are in trouble that kind of means we are too. So listen up people, Earth is talking to us!
Mundo Exchange’s Joan Williams has just returned from her Guatemala trip where she had actually been invited by a beekeeping buddy of hers to join them in honey gathering (what fortuitous timing)! The group she went into the field with are part of an organic apiary group in Chajul. Joan reported about her brief field experience,
“The work is pretty intensive as the bees are VERY protective of their home, honey, and Queen Bee. For a first timer a found it quite scary despite my loaned bee keeper suit. The bees completely swarm you – gloves, headdress and suit completely cover you and they follow you for quite a ways after you leave the hives.”
In Chajul, the whole process of extracting honey takes several hours for a group of 6 people. The first team opens the hives and takes out the individual shelves. It’s important to smoke the hives before you begin and throughout the whole process. Smoking the hive calms the bees twofold; the smoke tricks them into survival mode and gorging on as much honey as they can in case their hive goes up in flames and it inhibits the alarm pheromone released from each bee reaching the rest of the colony, As a result they are a little confused, full of honey, and more concerned about their own survival than you. That last bit sounds a little counter-intuitive and I’d suggest asking an actual beekeeper for clarification, but I can definitely understand being too full to leap into action!
Once the shelves are removed they are now passed off to the second team. This team places the shelves into a centrifuge This process removes all the honey from the honeycombs while keeping the structure intact! This way the now empty frame can be put back into the hives to be re-used by bees.
What a process! And what a day! Personally just thinking of all those bees makes my skin crawl a little bit, but it would definitely be an experience! Happy Bee Day!