ecology.com By Mary Zakrasek April 23, 2014
It’s spring and with flowers blooming and birds singing, it’s a perfect time to celebrate the little insects that makes the biggest impact on our world…Bees!
Honeybees are often the first bees we think about but have you ever noticed how different flowering plants attract different bees?
I first became much more aware of this when a wisteria vine in our yard bloomed and suddenly, we had bumblebees. They found a plum tree to hang out in and when they got hungry, they’d make a “beeline” down the path to the hanging blossoms.
But it was a documentary hosted by Peter Fonda called “Pollinators in Peril” where I first learned that there are over 20,000 species of bees and found out just how much we rely on bees. The film also introduced a gentle bee, the Blue Orchard Mason Bee which is indigenous to North America that pollinates, but doesn’t produce honey, and can easily be introduced into home gardens.
What Bees do for Us
Simply and amazingly, the world’s food supply depends on them. Bees not only help produce one-third of the all fruits and vegetables but many of those plants are then used to feed animals. Without their pollination, many plants would not bear any fruit. For example, almond trees, blueberries and avocados rely exclusively on bees.
Because tomato plants have tight flowers, they depend on bumble bees to know just how to shake, or buzz pollinate them to release the pollen. Honey bees don’t have the ability to vibrate like bumble bees. The flight muscles of bumble bees doing this have been found to match the musical note, middle-C, which may open a new area of pollination research called sonication!
Many plants also need multiple visits from bees. For example, it takes about 21 visits to strawberry plants or the fruit will end up being small and lopsided. (Hmmm…now I know what happened to the strawberries I was raising)!
Honeymoons and Healing
Ever wonder where the word “Honeymoon” originated?
There’s a little known piece of folklore about a honey wine called mead that has aphrodisiac properties. In cultures that base their calendar on the lunar cycle, newlyweds would drink mead during their first month of married life for good luck.
Besides being used in food products, personal care, beauty products, supplements and beverages, honey is used to cure some health problems. The ancient healing art called Apitherapy thrives in Bucharest where there is an Apitherapy Medical Center. Doctors there believe the hive is the oldest and healthiest natural pharmacy, and use bee venom to combat multiple sclerosis, pollen for indigestion and honey to heal wounds.