Bees are very important for us as they provide the pollination of agricultural plants. The global economic benefits of bees (for 2015) are 265 billion euros.
The benefits of bees are usually measured on the basis of products derived directly from them. Honey, of course, is the most popular. Bees collect nectar from blooming plants and fresh juice from coniferous trees and store the collected material in their honey stomachs. The materials are then transported to the honeycomb in the hive and processed and dried by the hive bees. Honey can only be collected if the water content is below 18 percent and this is done no more than four times a year.
The honey is collected by the beekeeper using a honey filtration machine. First, the wax covers are removed from the honeycombs in the frames and placed in the honey filtration machine. The centrifugal power in the honey filtration machine extracts honey from them without disturbing the cells. The beekeeper then puts the honeycomb back into the hive. Honey flowing from the machine is collected in a container and passed through a sieve several times to ensure that it no longer contains any wax or propolis residue (bee glue). The honey is then placed in the honey bottles and rested for several days to allow air bubbles and small wax particles to ascent to the surface.
Another bee product is wax which is mainly used by the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries as a natural product. It is a product extracted from the honey bee’s glands. Bees use the wax to build honeycombs. In the past, the brown honeycomb was removed by the beekeeper, melted, and then the defects were removed. The wax, which is now light and pure again, is poured into the new wax center walls and returns to the colonies or recycled by other means. Bee wax is a valuable raw material that can be used to make candles, among other things. To make a candle, the wax of an entire beehive is required. Bee wax candles give a soft light and fill the room with a pleasant aroma.
Pollen is another popular product. All plants produce pollen, the bee collects them while visiting the flowers, enriches them with nectar and carries them to the beehive. During the year, a single colony of bees collects pollen around between 30 to 60 kilograms. Beekeepers place a pollen trap at the entrance of the hive to collect it. Pollen is often used as a nutritional supplement. It is rich in vitamins, minerals, and proteins. Enriches the immune system and increases mental capacity.
Propolis, also known as bee glue, is another important bee product. Bees collect resin from different plants and use them as concealers to bring them to the beehive to protect themselves from bacteria and fungi. A bee colony has the ability to collect 50 to 500 grams of resin mass per year. Propolis is used in many medicinal products. It is a natural antibiotic because it has an anti-inflammatory effect and strengthens the immune system. The active ingredient is presented to humans as a medicinal ointment, cream or herbal drink in a capsule.
But perhaps the most valuable bee product is royal jelly. It is produced only by young worker bees and is made of honey, pollen, and their own gland secretions. Only queen bees can eat royal jelly, which gives her 50 times longer life than her colony. Therefore, the queen bee is a symbol of performance and vigor as well as vitality. Royal jelly is used in cosmetics as well as in the pharmaceutical industry. It can be used as a natural cure for virus-based infections and has a revitalizing effect.
Importance of Bees for Mankind
“If the bees wipe away from the earth, mankind can only live for four years. Without bees, there is no fertilization, no plants, no animals, no human beings.” (Albert Einstein, 1949)
The importance of honey bees and wasps for our ecosystem starts with the common life they create with vegetation: Bees need the nectar of flowers (honey extract) as nutrients to live, plants need a pollinator to spread their pollens.
Among all natural pollinators, bees have the most important environmental role, because pollination of almost 80% of all native flower species is carried out by Apis mellifera, a species of European Honeybee, and the remaining 20% is carried out by wasps, bumblebees, and butterflies. They specialize in a certain type or work slower than honey bees. Honey bees are the main responsible for good products and biological diversity.
When man discovered honey as delicious food, he began to use bees for his own purpose. Long ago in ancient Egypt honey used to be the food of the gods. There is even a profession as beekeeping in ancient Greece in 600 BC.
Importance of Bees with Numbers
According to the observations, three-quarters of the 100 plant species that make up more than 90% of the nutrients of humans are obtained by pollination of bees. The added value created by bees worldwide is around 250 billion euros. Pollination of agricultural products by bees not only increases yield but also improves fruit quality. Strawberries pollinated by bees, for example, are more durable, have fewer deformations and have a higher commercial value.
Cultivation of culture plants such as cocoa, vanilla, and passionfruit depends on the pollination to be provided by bees 100 percent. Pollination provided by insects increases fruit yield by around 40 percent in seed fruits.
Sudden Disappearance of Bees
Mass deaths of bee colonies, which have been observed periodically in winter for several years, are recorded. Colony Collapse Disorder/Syndrome is defined as the sudden disappearance of bees in a hive leaving behind larvae waiting to grow in honeycomb eyes. There are no dead bees in the immediate vicinity of the hives and none of the previous symptoms of the disease.
The only commentary that can be made as to the causes of bee deaths would be speculation because several factors come together. The importance of these factors cannot be measured precisely, especially considering their interactions.
- Pesticides: The use of pesticides in agriculture has a demonstrable effect on the health of bees. In addition, it is particularly difficult to agree on which substance has a detrimental effect on pollen carriers. There is a wide range of active substances used against pests and insects, and they are often chemical mixtures.
- Infectious Diseases: A virus can be transmitted to bees if, for example, an extinct hive is stolen and used. There are assumptions that genetically modified plants may have negative effects on honey bees as well. An example is a genetically modified corn by inserting a foreign gene into it. This gene produces a toxin that acts on insects. It has not been scientifically proven whether said toxin has harmful effects on bees or not though.
Importance of Honey Bees in Plant Pollination
Honey bees have a vital role in the agricultural industry. Remember to thank honey bees every time you eat your meal heartily! “Honey bees pollinate agricultural products that make up a third of our food, including fruits and vegetables. These products are the cornerstones of a healthy and anti-cancer diet for the heart.”
Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman, a visiting professor at the Department of Pesticides at the University of Arizona’s Faculty of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and chief researcher at the Carl Hayden Bee Research Center of the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service is saying that and adding: “This is the honey bee feeding laboratory. People are healthier when they are well-fed, so are bees. We are examining the effects of malnutrition and fungicides on bees, and how they change the way bees get nutrients from their flower nectar.
The laboratory also examines the role of microbes in digesting and exploiting bees’ nutrients. DeGrandi-Hoffman continues: “Just like humans, microbes have a vital role in the digestion, general health, and immunity of the bees. Honey bee colonies are healthier when there are various micro biomass in their environment.”
The laboratory is currently working on a honey bee microbiome project based on the Human Microbiome Project and aims to find out the roles and interactions of microbes living in and on bees. Honey bees are very important for agricultural pollination because they can be accommodated in colonies and can be moved to open land just in time to pollinate the flowers.
DeGrandi-Hoffman is saying: “We can control the pollinated population and take them to the main agricultural systems. For example, in February, bees are brought from all over the country to pollinate almond trees. There is not enough local population to pollinate all the almond products, but we can bring thousands of pollinators for the trees there, bringing honey bees to the gardens and releasing the colonies.”
DeGrandi-Hoffman said beekeepers lose 30% of their colonies every winter. He also stated that the drought that prevents the plants from blooming, which is an indispensable source of honeybee food, causes damage to honeybees. DeGrandi-Hoffman says: “There is a healthy population of honey bees and local pollinators in Tucson. The health of the population of honey bees that will pollinate the products also affects human health.”
Landlords can support the formation of a healthy pollinator population by growing plants such as sunflowers and dahlia. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum’s pollinator partnership website provides a list of plants that can be a source of food for different types of pollinating insects, including honey bees and local bees. DeGrandi-Hoffman has a warning: “Use insecticides with extreme caution. Landlords sometimes use insecticides and fungicides without thinking about their possible effects on organisms such as bees. These products can cause bee deaths.
Importance of Honeybee in Plant Production
As a result of being an agricultural activity, apiculture directly contributes to pollination service and crop production indirectly. Beekeeping has no direct or indirect harmful effects on the environment and nature.
Beekeeping can be done as a second production branch in agricultural enterprises such as fields, vineyards, and livestock. In this way, the profit of the enterprise is increased. In fact, there is a need for honey bees in farms that produce field and vineyard-horticultural products. Bees provide the pollination they need in order to produce seed and fruit of the plants in plant production and cause a significant increase in the quantity and quality of the product. Even for this reason, beekeeping can be included in agricultural holdings. In particular, the use of beekeeping in the plants with rich vegetation in the environment both increases the profit of the enterprise and contributes to the operating budget due to the production of honey or other bee products.
As mentioned above, the plants need to pollinate enough flowers to produce seeds and fruit. Honey bees, especially in open areas are the best insects for the pollination. It is thought that honey bees went through various stages of evolution to adapt the nectar and pollen feeding system and the formation of organs suitable for this purpose is related to meeting the pollination needs of plants. Therefore, the bees, which are very good pollinators due to their body structures and feeding styles, are attracted by the flowers with their nectar secretions. They also pollinate during the collection of nectar and pollen by bees.
In countries that there is awareness about the pollination needs of plants, the importance of honey bees in pollination and the increase of the product to be provided in this way, producers obtain more and better quality products by renting bee colony during the flowering periods of the plants. In the new world fruits, 4% of the flowers in the trees that are not fertilized with bees fructify, whereas the fructifying rate of the flowers fertilized with bees has been 83%. In the absence of bees in the apple orchards, the fructifying rate of the flowers that are not fertilized with bees was 5% and the fructifying rate of the flowers fertilized with honey bees was 22%. For these reasons, apiculture is an important input in crop production, along with fertilizer and water. Unfortunately, this issue is not known enough in worldwide and large amounts of product losses occur. For these reasons, apiculture is a branch of production that can be continued without consuming resources.