Bees, especially honey bees, have continued to inspire and fascinate mankind since time immemorial. It was only inevitable that this laborious wax- and honey-producing insect would even have a noteworthy position in the heavenly religions and feature in holy books such as the Bible and the Holy Quran as well.
Many noteworthy quotations in English literature are also associated with bees, which signify their industrial work routine, their way of living together in hives, and the final outcome, which is the result of their joint efforts.
However, there is another quotation that is relevant to gardening. It states that if all the honey bees are wiped off or disappear from the face of the planet, then soon life and mankind will also cease to exist. But how can that be?
The honey bee flies from flower to flower, collecting nectar to prepare honey. In the process, they become vectors for pollination and enable flowers to turn into fruits. Without these bees, the process of pollination would also take a hit, and it would be difficult for farmers to get bumper crops or to ensure growing financially viable fruits and vegetables for food.
Honey bees are, by far, the most important pollinators of food crops and flowering plants
For any gardener, the presence of natural pollinators is almost as significant as the existence of soil, compost, sunlight or water, if not more. Among the natural pollinators, honey bees are one of the most common and sought-after. Incidentally, their ability to pollinate thousands of flowers has far more weight than its rather well-known gift of producing honey.
Honey bees streamline the process of pollination by depositing pollen grains present on the anther, or male part of the flower, onto the stigma, or female part of the flower. The eventual outcome of pollination is the fertilisation of the flower to produce fruit and seeds.
It is, therefore, easy to understand the importance of one of the most beneficial natural pollinators. As these bees sit on the flowers, the pollen clings to the different parts of the bee, which eventually gets deposited on the stigma of any of the next flowers that this bee now visits. Many studies claim that a honey bee easily visits at least 50 to 100 flowers in a single day, while this number can increase up to a whopping 1,500 flowers or more on a productive day.
It is also believed that honey bees are likely to visit two million flowers to create a pound of honey. Hypothetically, a hive of 20,000 honey bees has the potential to easily visit and pollinate more than twenty million flowers in a single day! Techniques like hand-pollination can, therefore, never emulate this huge number of flowers and the probability of getting a flower fertilised.
Honey prepared by honey bees is a treat in itself. It is enjoyed as a nutritious, nourishing food by both animals and mankind. Honey is also considered a source of cure or relief for different ailments. While many take a spoonful of warm honey with
black pepper to relieve their coughs and sore throats, it is also used to boost the immune system, especially in herbal medicine.
Honey is especially beneficial in first-degree superficial burns. This is because it has antibacterial, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The high sugar content and low pH of honey also restricts bacterial growth, which is one of the primary reasons that honey can be easily kept for longer periods.
Dozens of types of honey are available, based on the source of the nectar that the bees feed on. Honey made with a specific type of flower is likely to have some distinct sensory features, such as a unique colour, taste or fragrance, as compared to others.
One of the prime reasons that generous usage of inorganic pesticides, herbicides and insecticides is not recommended in gardening and agriculture is that they may kill the much-wanted honey bees. It is therefore important to read the instructions and labels on such insecticides. Replacing the chemical one with an organic Neem oil pesticide is also likely to save many bees.
If the chemical-based insecticide and pesticide spray must be used, then it can be sprayed at dusk or late evening, when honey bees return to their hives, giving them more chances to live. Creating a pollinator-friendly environment and habitat for the bees somewhat guarantees the existence of life on the planet.
Please send your queries and emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. The writer is a physician and a host for the YouTube channel ‘DocTree Gardening’ promoting organic kitchen gardening
Published in Dawn, EOS, September 17th, 2023