Contributors – Samuel Akpan and Kikiope Oluwarore
Have you ever heard of the word “Mellitology”? Obviously not a popular word in the world of science, but nevertheless, it is of critical importance. It is a branch of entomology that is referred to as The Study of Bees.
Why Studying Bees?
For centuries, the bee (genus Apis) has proven to be the most critically important and significant insect to humanity. They are widely known for their natural abilities to produce one of the most beneficial food substances in the world – Honey. However, of the over 20,000 species of bees are known in existence, not all produce honey. This makes the honey-producing species to be called “honeybees“. Honey serves as food for man and is utilized for therapeutic purposes as it possesses several antibacterial and antifungal properties, as well as antioxidants to enhance human health. It is used as topical applications to soothe anti-inflammatory effects against common skin problems. Little wonder it is being highly sought after and used globally in the soap-making and cosmetics industry.
Most importantly, bees aid food sufficiency and crop production for humans and animals by their high pollinating abilities. In fact, bees are the highest known pollinators in the world! Through the migratory feeding habits of bees in large numbers, they successfully transfer pollen grains from different flowering plants to others. And as we all know, pollination is necessary for the production of seeds through which several plants can grow. Therefore, in this way, bees support the existence of life on the planet earth as all humans, animals, and birds survive on plants produce to survive. In fact, according to Science Daily, a study has shown that in 2005, the global economic value of the pollination service provided particularly by bees is €153 billion and this figure amounts to 9.5 percent of the total value of the agricultural food production in the world. Rural and urban livelihoods have also been preserved through beekeeping and sale of honey bye-products. What more, bees operate in an environmentally friendly way! Till, date, no bee activity has been reported to be of any threat whatsoever to environmental integrity.
Despite the seeming importance of bees to One Health and environmental sustainability, bees are threatened by extinction due to massive deforestation caused by encroaching urbanization. These activities convert areas that previously served as bee enclaves into urban environments that do not serve as suitable habitats for bees. The United Nations has further identified that present species extinction rates for bees are 100 to 1,000 times higher than normal due to human impacts. They noted that if this trend continues, nutritious crops, such as fruits, nuts, and many vegetable crops will be substituted increasingly by staple crops like rice, corn, and potatoes, eventually resulting in an imbalanced diet. Additionally, global phenomena such as the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in which abnormally large bee colonies disappear, leaving honeycombs and few immature bees have been on the rise. This has raised global concerns about the continued sufficiency of bees to support human, animal, and environmental sustainability. Though causes of CCD are not known, entomologists suspect pesticide toxicity, climate change, amongst other factors. More so, fewer individuals are engaging in Apiculture, the act of beekeeping/ farming for honey production; which also serves to ensure that more bees are produced locally in addition to the numbers in the wild.
More intensified efforts are needed at mitigating the effects of climate change on Bees, as well as enforcing laws on indiscriminate use of pesticides among others. We must ensure environmental protection and save the bee populations. More studies are also needed to identify extinction patterns and how to restore their populations through bee multiplication measures. This is more critical now than ever. According to a popular quote credited to the renowned late German scientist, Albert Einstein, “If bees disappear from the earth, it means man would have not more than 4 years to live. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, and no more human life“.
In observance of today’s World Bee Day, the United Nations encourages us all to collectively do more to SAVE THE BEES by doing the following as quoted below;
Individuals can Save the Bees by:
- Planting a diverse set of native plants, which flower at different times of the year;
- Buying raw honey from local farmers;
- Buying products from sustainable agricultural practices;
- Avoiding pesticides, fungicides or herbicides in our gardens;
- Protecting wild bee colonies when possible;
- Sponsoring a hive;
- Making a bee water fountain by leaving a water bowl outside;
- Helping sustaining forest ecosystems;
- Raising awareness around us by sharing this information within our communities and networks; The decline of bees affects us all!
Beekeepers and farmers can Save the Bees by:
- Reducing, or changing the usage of pesticides;
- Diversifying crops as much as possible, and/or planting attractive crops around the field;
- Creating hedgerows.
Governments and decision-makers can Save the Bees by:
- Strengthening the participation of local communities in decision-making, in particular, that of indigenous people, who know and respect ecosystems and biodiversity;
- Enforcing strategic measures, including monetary incentives to help change;
- Increasing collaboration between national and international organizations, organizations, and academic and research networks to monitor and evaluate pollination services.
Together, we can Save the Bees. Happy World’s Bee Day 2020!