Bees and Pollination: How Important is It?
Deep down inside, you know you are valuable, that you are worth it, and you absolutely hate it when people dare to underestimate your abilities. Welcome to the world of the honey bee. Believe it or not bees are one of the hardest working animals on the planet. Because of their amazing work ethic the people of the world have much to thank the honey bee for.
If honey bees didn’t exist, life as we know it would be completely different. Let’s first take a look at the food chain. The honey bees’ skilled pollination affects every living thing in one way or another. Without pollination the world would be lacking necessary vegetation. With this absence, people and animals of all kinds would be deprived of food. Even animals in the carnivorous category would be hurting as their prey lives off the vegetation that thrives from bee pollination. Seeds, fruits, and berries, which are eaten by birds and small animals, rely on bees to reproduce. Cattle and other livestock that humans rely on also depend on the bees’ dutiful pollination. Without bee’s endless work, ranchers and farmers would be hard pressed to provide fodder and other feedstuffs for the livestock. John F. Freeman, a latecomer environmentalist, brings up the point that, “One third of your plate is dependent on bees for production.” To further the food chain illustration honey bees pollinate about four hundred different agricultural type plants, and an estimated thirty-three percent of all crops. In 2010, 19 billion dollars’ worth of agricultural crop production in the United States alone was made possible by the pollination service of honey bees.1 Honey bees contribute vastly to our food chain. To say we could get by without honey bees would be a devastatingly false statement. To put it plainly, bees are the guardians of the food chain.
Bees pollinate about one sixth of the flowering plant species worldwide. This includes cotton, “the fabric of our lives.” Has anyone stopped to consider what we would do if we were suddenly facing a shortage of clothing? Cotton fiber makes up about half of the fabric content used in the production of clothing and other textiles.2 The amazing thing about cotton is that it not only allows blue jeans, and cotton balls to be produced, but cottonseed is a common element in both human and livestock feed. The average person consumes about three pints of cottonseed oil annually.3 We should appreciate all the efforts required to ensure enough cotton is produced. Once again honey bees save the day.
Bees are not the only members on the pollinator list. Other subscribers to the pollinator club include butterflies, hummingbirds, moths, and bats. Honey bees account for eighty percent of all pollination while the others combined make up the remaining twenty percent.4 This only goes to show how vital honey bees truly are to the world. A local Master Gardener, Kathy Rupert, states that, “Pollination is extremely important for all species involved. Plants as well as animals would be adversely affected without pollination. It is possible that food supplies for both man and animal would be drastically reduced.”
I am very lucky to live in a community that supports honey bees. Anyone can walk into our farm supply store and shop in a specified honey bee section. An assortment of bee equipment and many other supplies can be found here. In addition to the store, the Magic Valley Beekeepers club is very active in south Idaho. Heidi and Kirk Tubbs, known as our local honey bee heroes, are the folks in charge of the group. The club meets regularly to discuss bee related issues and community outreach ideas such as setting up informative honey bee displays at local county fairs and offering a hands-on bee hive to educate the public. Heidi and Kirk Tubbs also offer classes for all levels of beekeepers and rent out beekeeping equipment.
Kirk Tubbs is also the manager of the Twin Falls County Pest Abatement District. When a new toxic sugar bait used to kill mosquitoes was placed on the market, Tubbs wanted to ensure bees wouldn’t mistake the mosquito pesticide as a source of food. His study showed that the sugar bait was safe for pollinators. Kirk Tubbs knows how important pollinators, especially bees, are to the world. Kirk Tubbs says, “You know that this is just fun for me. I really love bees.”
The state of Idaho is also aware of the importance of honey bees. The Idaho Department of Agriculture (ISDA) is authorized by statute to protect Idaho’s bee industry. In 2007, Idaho legislature passed a law that allows honey bee owners living within a mosquito abatement district to opt out of the district’s treatment program.5 By allowing this, Idaho is helping to increase the survival rate of honeys bees. In the year 2014, a bill was passed that exempts bee hives brought into Idaho for temporary indoor winter storage from registration fees.6 This bill makes it more convenient for producers to house their hives as they make the journey to other states for pollination purposes.
Poet Kahlil Gibran modestly states, “To the bee, a flower is the foundation of life, and to the flower, the bee is a messenger of love.” Humans heavily rely on honey bees and their pollination skills. Bees go unnoticed every day in this world. To say that you and I are in need of honey bees is a horrendous understatement. Honey bees will continue to carry out their laborious job day in and day out without a single complaint. The humble difference between us and bees is that the bees are not in it for the fame and glory. They merely do what they must do to survive while unknowingly allowing the rest of the world to thrive. They are the unsung heroes of this life, and at the very least we owe them a sincere and gracious thank-you.
- These statistics referenced from onegreenplanet.org article by Jessica Tucker entitled “Why Bees Are Important to Our Planet”
- Highlighted in the 2003 WWF report Thirsty Crop
- Referenced from Western Farm Press article by Cary Blake entitled “Cotton is the Fabric-and Food-of Our Lives”
- Information taken from Discover.Monsanto.com article entitled “Dig a Little Deeper: The Buzz on Honey Bees” article
- This information was found on Ada County Idaho website; article entitled “Mosquito Abatement No Spray Request”
- Information found on Idaho Honey blog, section entitled “2014 Idaho Legislature”
Benjamin, Alison. Why are Bees Important. The Guardian. 17 June 2015. Web. 10 January 2016
Blake, Cary. Cotton is the Fabric-and Food-of our Lives. Western Farm Press. 5 May 2013. Web. 8 January 2016
Cotton Farming. WWF Panda. n.d. Web. 9 January 2016
Lamp’l, Joe. The Importance of Pollinators. Growing a Grener World. n.d. Web. 12, January 2016
Lee, Sandra L. The Bees Have it. Times News. 4 January 2015. Print. 11 January 2016
Muzzi, Doreen. Bees Work to Improve Cotton Yields. South East Farm Press. 5 December 2001. Web. 11 January 2016
Packham, Chris. Would we Starve without Bees. BBC. n.d. Web. 12 January 2016
Kathy, Rupert. “Re: Honey Bees and the Importance of Pollination.” Message to the author. 13 January 2016. E-mail.
Smit, Benton. “Saving Bees in the Battle Against Mosquitos”. Times News. Paper. 31 August 2015
Tucker, Jessica. Why Bees are Important to Our Planet. One Green Planet. 17 June 2014. Web. 9 January 2016
The Importance of Bees. Bee Pollen. n.p. n.d. Web. 12 January 2016
The Importance of Pollinators. Natural Resource Conservation Service. n.p. n.d. Web. 12, January 2016
"Dig a Little Deeper - The Buzz on Honey Bees ." n.p. n.d. Print. 9 January 2016.
2016 Second-Place Essay Winner
Hadley Kimball has been involved in 4-H for five years. Through 4-H she has shown horses, goats, chickens and cats. She has also taken part in miscellaneous projects such as sewing and modeling, healthy living, leather craft and veterinary science. This past November Hadley’s Livestock Skill-A-Thon team traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, to compete at the national level.
Hadley has recently graduated from Jerome High School. During her high school years she participated in FFA, National Honors Society, varsity cross-country, 5th district Idaho High School Rodeo Association and the Elite Dance Force. This fall she will attend the College of Southern Idaho where she will work toward getting her veterinary technician certificate.