Today, I had another post in mind entirely, until I saw this tweet by a fellow Hiver talking about today being the world's bee day. Not just that, the Hiver challenged fellow Hivers to put up a post highlighting the problems being faced by the tiny insects that move in swarms. I do not know if there is a better place to talk about the problems being faced by bees on world bees day other than Hive. The post I had in mind before now can wait, let's talk about bees.
Understanding how bees function
In order to discuss the problems being faced by bees, it is imperative to have an understanding of how these organisms function in nature. Bees belong to a group of animals known as arthropods. Specifically, they belong to a class known as Insecta. They are one of the few social insects that exist in nature. They are social because they live in groups or colonies, carry out a division of labour in achieving survival, and have overlapping generations.
A colony of bee usually consist of a single queen who is responsible for laying eggs and producing young ones, a few drones that are usually granted temporary accommodation and driven out when living conditions decline, and worker bees who are responsible for food hunting, food production, and protection of the colony from attacks.
Basically, when the conditions are right such as the availability of pollen and nectar (which depends on seasons), bee colonies flourish. They collect nectar and pollen to make honey and a protein-rich food known as beebread which is fed to the young ones (the larvae). The honey is made by continuous regurgitation and mixing with enzymes of the nectar collected from flowers. The honey made is stored in the beeswax and sealed for future use when nectar and pollen would be scarce. An in-depth exposition of how bees function can be accessed by reading this publication
In the process of feeding on nectar and collecting pollen, bees accidentally move pollen from the anther of flowers to stigmas of the same or different flowers. Thus, they indirectly carry out pollination in plants. A large percentage of crops that serve as food for us humans are pollinated through the activities of bees. This is what makes bees important even for the survival of man. Without bee pollinators, the world's hunger crisis will worsen and we all know what that means.
Challenges to the existence of bees
Just as every existence has its own challenge, bees are not exempted. More prominent are the problems being faced by bees as a direct or indirect result of human activities. It is ironic that despite the huge benefits we derive from bees, very little to no care is taken to make the existence of bees better, or just let them be, at worst.
While I may not be able to say much about the problems bees are facing from their fellow insects or animals or even among themselves, I have grouped the problems they are facing as a result of anthropological activities into 3:
Bee farming and honey hunting
This is perhaps the biggest problem being faced by bees in this period of our existence. Many people are into bee farming with the sole objective being the collection of honey and beeswax for different uses. Very few people actually know that when they consume or use honey or beeswax product, they are indirectly contributing to the destruction of bees. Humans have become a major competitor with bees when it comes to honey consumption.
Honey represents stored food for bees and come in handy when climatic conditions do not favour nectar/pollen production by plants or when the climatic conditions are harsh for worker bees to explore for foods. So, what humans just do is storm beehives and steal their stored food for their own usage. The absence of stored food will lead to starvation and a decline in the population of bees in colonies. This is in my own logical thinking.
As if that is not enough, most times, honey hunters do not only steal bees' food reserves but also destroy their habitats as well as kill a significant number of bees off colonies. Because worker bees do not just give up without a fight (by stinging enemies), hunters resort to different tactics to extort honey from beehives. Some use smoke/fire to first kill and drive off the entire colony before going for the ultimate prize.
Bee farming or beekeeping is similar to honey hunting, the only thing is that the bees are lured to build their hive in a specific place through different means. Locally here, wooden boxes are constructed with holes in them and then smeared with honey before they are placed in the forest. The pheromone in the honey attracts bees who harmlessly and happily chose the box as their dwelling place and start building colonies in them. At a specific period of the year when the colonies would have stored adequate honey in their hive, the bee farmer strikes and harvest all the available honey in the box.
Habitat destruction and deforestation
Deforestation and degradation of forests that serve as habitats for bees are twin factor that goes hand in hand in causing a decline in the population of bees all over the world.
Apart from the fact that trees and forest layers serve as potential beehives, the removal of trees means that there is less food for bees to consume. When food declines, we all know what follows.
Man-driven climate change also affects the existence of bees. As the world's climate becomes erratic, bees either find a way to keep up or risk being eradicated by unfavourable climate. Gone are the days when springs, winter, and summer can be predicted correctly. Nowadays, predicting the climate is more about guesswork (this not watering down the efforts of meteorologists, please). When plants do not flower when they are supposed to flower, rains do not come when they are supposed to come, high temperatures are being experienced when it is supposed to be cold, etc, the lives of bees are being thrown into turmoil.
The erratic climate can affect reproduction, result in starvation, loss of lives, loss of habitats, etc. for bee colonies.
I have been able to highlight some of the problems being faced by bees in honoring the world bees day. As humans, we can do far better to ensure that these important insects do not decline in population or go into outright extinction. We can do without honey (yes, we can!) and try as much as possible to mitigate climate change by emitting less greenhouse gases, planting more trees, and creating habitats for bees without exploiting them for honey.
What do you think?