Have you ever wondered why there is such a massive outcry from conservationists around protecting the honey bee? The popularity of honey, honeycombs and conversations around bees have increased in recent years, but why the sudden flutter about these small insects? Have you ever pictured a world without bees? Or thought about the implications of what their extinction could mean to me and you?
A world without bees
It is almost unimaginable to picture the world without a busy little bee zooming around your soda can or a buzz of activity around a beautiful lavender bush, or not having your morning toast with a luscious spread of honey. However, the reality is that we could find ourselves in a situation where our existence is in danger if we do not pay close attention to protecting our bee population.
Studies have found that our exisitence is directly dependent on the number of bees in our ecosystem. In summary – no bees = no food (or at least minimal resources). Bees are responsible for pollinating the crops we harvest, which is essential for our diets and the diets of the livestock used to produce many of our other food groups. Nearly two-thirds of Australia’s agricultural production benefits from honeybee pollination.
In Australia, we are lucky enough to maintain a steady population of bees. However, severe climate changes with erratic weather patterns such as flash flooding, bushfires, and extreme temperature fluctuations, often threaten our bee population. Furthermore, the world has seen a steep decline in the number of bees on a global platform due to colony collapse disorder (CCD) and invasive bee pests.
Honey – the ancient superfood
Of course, bees are also producers of honey. Honey has long been positioned as a natural alternative to sugar. But honey, especially medicinal honey like Comvita’s Mānuka Honey, offers a unique range of beneficial oligosaccharides and prebiotics, amino acids, polyphenolic and other plant-derived compounds. It shows up to 10 times greater phenolic concentration than pasture-type honey.
There are many known medicinal benefits due to the compounds found in honey, such as supporting wound healing and using it as part of a topical antibacterial and anti-inflammatory application. Another prevalent finding has shown its benefits in supporting gut and digestive health, soothing coughs and sore throats, and it is often used as part of a beauty booster to help support a glowing complexion.
Play your part
Here are some handy tips on how we can all play our part in ensuring that we keep our bees buzzing.
Many of us enjoy honey without much thought to its origins. You don’t necessarily need to invest in a hive to support these hard workers. Instead, make your garden and environment more attractive and bee-friendly by planting flowers rich in colour, pollen and produce nectar. Establish a diverse range of nutrition for your local colony through basil, rosemary, lavender, marigolds, calendula, sunflowers and cosmos (you can also use these herbs in teas or tinctures.)
Along with these plants, remember to provide a source of water. Bees need water in the exact quantities of nectar and pollen (especially during the hot weather): a bowl of water filled with stones for safe landings is ideal.
When spraying your grass to rid it of pests and weeds, think of the bees. If you must spray, use responsible practices: spray after sundown (most pollinators are done foraging for the day by then); avoid spraying in the wind, and never mix chemicals.
Even if you can’t establish your own ‘hive’, support local beekeepers and farmers. Shop at your local farmers market or farms that practise sustainable and regenerative agriculture. You can do your bit by joining your local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. If you are interested in becoming a backyard beekeeper, many local apiarist’s offer courses and ‘flow’ hives to help you take bee conservation to the next level.
Shop smart when it comes to buying your honey products. Comvita spends extensive time and resources to ensure responsible manufacturing and production processes to ensure the safety, health and happiness of their bees and hives. Apis mellifera honey bees harvest Mānuka honey from the nectar of the Mānuka tree indigenous to New Zealand. The bees take the pollen and nectar from the Mānuka plants in remote areas, ensuring their product’s safety and cleanliness.
- A worker bee produces about 1.5tsp of honey during her entire lifetime.
- Approximately one billion flowers are needed to provide enough nectar and pollen to support just one bee colony for one year.
- In a healthy hive, there are about 50,000 bees. More than 95 per cent of these are female.
- A honeybee queen lays up to 2,000 eggs per day, and a substantial colony consumes over 150kg of honey in one season.
- The only bee that can sting is a female bee. The queen bee is the only one who can sting more than once.
- A honeybee flies approximately 24km per hour and travels up to 100km per day to collect nectar.
- Honeybees have a unique way of communicating their nectar sources. They can smell and detect nectar sources up to 2km away. They share these finds by using elaborate ‘waggle’ dances.