Why Honeybees Are Important to Food Production and Farm Life

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To many, bees are viewed, at best, as outdoor pests and at worst, dangerous insects with stingers that are hurtful and potentially life threatening. But did you know that honeybees are a crucial component of food production? In fact, it’s estimated that bees are responsible for a third of the food that we eat.

honeybee

Animals including birds, bats, beetles, and butterflies are all pollinators, transferring pollen between flowers and plants, but the honeybee is the most important pollinator. Bees pollinate approximately 80 percent of our flowering crops. A honeybee can visit between 50-1000 flowers in one trip, which takes between 30 minutes to four hours. Examples of bee pollinated crops include watermelons, cantaloupe, citrus, apples, cucumbers, squash, most berry crops, broccoli, nuts, asparagus, and more.

Honeybees aren’t just important for commercial farmers. Honeybees are also essential for successful home gardening and are necessary for the production of food for wildlife. In addition, bees aid in the production of alfalfa that is used for feed within the beef and dairy industries. Bee venom has medicinal properties and has been used for treating arthritis, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, cancer, epilepsy, depression, and more.

Unfortunately, honeybees have been threatened in recent years. Colony collapse disorder (CCD) was named in 2006 after a sharp rise in the number of worker bees disappearing from their colonies. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, some beekeepers began reporting losses of 30-90 percent of their hives that year.

One cause of bee community decline is the increased usage of pesticides and insecticides in agricultural and urban areas. This pest control has resulted in the killing of the bees that are necessary for maintaining the crop that the pesticides are trying to protect. Homeowners are aggravating the problem by getting rid of dandelions and clovers, treating grass with pesticides, and mowing down grass regularly. The importance of protecting bees from pesticides is immense. If honeybees disappear, the plants that they pollinate will disappear along with them.

To reduce pesticide use and risk to bees, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques should be used. The goal of IPM is not to eliminate all pests but to prevent pest populations from reaching damaging levels. As a first line of defense against damaging insects, predator insects are released into the field. Often, this release is effective in keeping damaging insects in check. Spraying is only done when a pest or disease reaches a level that could seriously harm the crop.

Check out this video that WBZ-TV filmed here at Parlee Farms for its “Gardening With Gutner” segment to learn more about the importance of bee pollination. Todd Gutner interviews our beekeeper, Andy Reseska from Reseska Apiaries. We have 24 beehives on the farm now (from April-August) and we sell Andy’s honey under the Boston Honey Company label. It’s a great product that’s good for you!

*photo credit idahohoneybee.com

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This post was written by Parlee Farms