For my entire professional life, I have followed Senegalese conservationist Baba Dioum’s dictum: “In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught.”
The more we discover about the incomparable honeybees, the more respect they rightfully garner.
On a chilly morning, there’s nothing quite like a warm cup of your favorite beverage. It energizes the body. Conversely, a cool drink on a warm afternoon is refreshing. Our golden winged little friends think so too.
My colleagues in Australia documented that on a cool morning bees will visit flowers in the sun first because the nectar is warm. It invigorates them. When air temperature exceeds 93 degrees, the bees favor flowers in the shade.
The cooler temperature nectar rejuvenates them, enabling the indefatigable bees to work through hot summer afternoons until sundown.
Are you like me and millions of other people who find our morning caffeine buzz irresistible? We are not the only ones, our friends the honeybees also seek a morning hit from flowers containing nectar laced with caffeine.
That caffeine boosts bees’ memories. It causes the buzzed forager bees returning to the hive, to dance vigorously and communicate to other bees the precise location of the caffeinated flowers.
It seems that some plants have evolved an ingenious mechanism, using caffeine as a drug, to get the upper hand on the bees to pollinate their flowers first.
Have you ever listened to the melodic vibrations, or, hum, of a honeybee? Apparently, some flowers tune right into that frequency and quickly enrich their nectar to reward the bees and hasten pollination. That’s exactly what researchers from Israel recently reported.
Honeybees, just like people, elephants, ravens and orcas, mourn the loss of a loved one.
They found that evening primrose flowers react to honeybee wing vibrations by increasing the concentration of sugar in their flowers’ nectar. How intriguing that those flowers can hear the bees and yet tune out other sounds like the wind.
Just like we have a nose that can distinguish between some 10,000 different molecules. A worker bee’s head has two antennae loaded with 3,000 sensory organs. Their ability to distinguish more than 170 odors is vital for smelling nectar, pollen, water, tree resin and alert pheromones, or, hormones.
Inhaling diesel fumes from combustion engines in cities and towns causes the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in children. That toxic diesel air pollution also makes it twice as difficult for honeybees to find flowers. In addition, diesel exhaust changes the chemical make up of the flower’s scents. That significantly impairs the chance of successful pollination. No pollination. No food.
800 million people grow food within cities around the world. Their health and wellbeing depend entirely upon the bees’ ability to sniff the flowers of vegetable, fruit and nut bearing urban plants. That’s why many cities like Athens, Madrid, Mexico City, Paris and others have bans on these filthy life-threatening combustion engines.
As we begin meteorological spring (on March 1 in the northern hemisphere), please remember in the ensuing months to avoid all herbicides, miticides, fungicides and insecticides in your yard.
These hideous chemicals are readily available over the counter at gardening stores. They cause honeybees to lose their minds and shake to death, eerily like Alzheimer and Parkinson diseases. They poison soils, kill soil fauna, birds and pollute fresh water.
Bees and other pollinators like hoverflies, bats, and others account for pollinating 75 percent of all food crops. Last year in America, the total bee loss from 2017-2018 was 40.1 percent. Chemical poisoning was the leading culprit.
It’s up to all of us to turn this around by refusing long-lasting bee-killing chemicals. We need these glorious humming creatures in order to survive!
Dr Reese Halter is an award-winning broadcaster, distinguished conservation biologist and author.