Updated: Jan 21
The avocado could be toast if we say goodbye to bees.
Globally bee numbers are declining, without bees we would be saying goodbye to more than honey, worldwide we would actually lose about three quarters of our food and in Australia the avocado would be one of the first to vanish.
Last year, a desperate European Parliament banned three neonicotinoids pesticides to try and halt the decline, because a decline in bees means a decline in food, and a threat to our entire ecosystem. Thankfully in Australia we have not seen a decline in bee populations, but this is being carefully monitored.
In the USA, almond farmers have already seen what a reduction in bee population means. Almond growers in California had to work together and import bees into their crops to pollinate as a lack of bees in the area meant near total obliteration of one of California’s biggest exports.
Why does the bee have such an impact on our food? You may remember learning about pollination at school - bees collect nectar from flowers, and when they do this, their hairy legs pick up pollen, they travel from flower to flower, spreading the pollen and fertilising the crops.
There are other species that also pollinate, the hummingbird, butterflies, bats, moths, ants, etc all pollinate and contribute to our ecosystem. The difference is that bees are responsible for the vast majority of pollination worldwide.
Bees are considerably more targeted in their pollination, unlike other species, making them by far the most successful pollinators. Bees will concentrate on one plant at a time. They will collect the pollen from one plant and head straight to the next plant, of the same species thus fertilising. Other pollinators get distracted and so much of the pollen they collect is wasted. It is the efficient pollination of bees that makes the survival of our ecosystem almost entirely reliant on them, and thus our own survival.
But bees are more than just fertilisers, they are incredibly interesting so on this International Bee Day I will leave you with a few facts on the honey bee:
The queen Bee can live up to five years, while worker bees live about six weeks
Worker bees are female and do all of the work
Male bees have one purpose - to mate!
Only the females sting
They have an amazing sense of smell and can differentiate hundreds of different floral varieties
Their brain is the size of a sesame seed, but they have fantastic memories and can make complex calculation about distances and efficiency
Each colony has a unique order so that the bee knows which is theirs
Remember bees aren't the enemy or out to get you, so if you are keen to do something positive for the population here's a few starters;
Plant native bee friendly plants in your garden, away from your windows and doors
Install a small water basin, bees get thirsty - add some floating cork so they can swan around and not drown!
Educate your kids about being bee friendly
So next time you see bees minding their business and pollinating our food, let them fly right by and keep up the great work!