Honeybees are an integral part of our food chain

I have, like most people, always had a slight fear of bees. It’s no secret their stinging reputation precedes any benefits they may provide! But most beekeepers would likely argue that bees are actually really good for us. These hard-working insects pollinate more than 90 of the tastiest flowering crops, making them partially responsible for every third bite of food we eat!

In Michigan, these important crops include apples, squash, cucumbers, and melons.  .  Honeybees also play an important role in animal production because they pollinate alfalfa and other grains eaten by livestock. Reduced rates of honeybee pollination impact the cost of meat and produce, driving up prices across the board.

We need to give honeybees the credit they deserve and if we don’t protect them now, they may not be around to collect their sweet glory. Honeybees represent only a small fraction of the approximately 20,000 known bee species. Unfortunately, because of climate change, pesticide use, and loss of habitat, honeybee populations are in trouble.

In the United States alone, more than 25 percent of the managed honeybee population has disappeared since 1990. Agriculture depends greatly on the honeybee for pollination. Honeybees account for 80% of all insect pollination. Without such pollination, we would see a significant decrease in the yield of fruits and vegetables.

Fortunately, there are a growing number of urban beekeepers who maintain hives in their backyards, community gardens or farms. These blossoming beekeepers are a part of the ever-increasing community of enthusiasts. In 2011 alone, members of a local beekeeping club, called Sweet on Detroit, managed more than 53 hives that yielded over 630 lbs of honey!

I never knew what good things bees do for us! I have always enjoyed my toast and tea with a bit of honey but I now understand their additional value.  The next time I visit the farmer’s market to pick up my favorite local fruits and veggies, I’ll remember how hard those bees worked to render such a healthy harvest!

Do you know of any beekeeping efforts in your community?

Photo credit: @healthyrx

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