The Benefits of Beekeeping for the Environment
It’s not common knowledge that the honey bee can only survive in many parts of the world due to the beekeeper. Wild colonies have dwindled to the point of extinction due to modern agriculture. Huge expanses of land which now grow a single crop were once home to thousands of plants providing nectar and pollen for the honey bee and many other insects. Woodland has also disappeared, where traditionally a honey bee colony would find its home in the hollow trunk of a tree. This reduction of biodiversity, and decrease of animal populations has a huge environmental impact.
Sustaining honey bee numbers means the pollination of crops which otherwise could not be grown at all, or on a much smaller scale. Although some plants will be visited by many insect types, others can only be pollinated by the honey bee. They are an incredibly effective pollinator, when a source of pollen or nectar has been discovered by a scout bee, a large amount of the bees from that hive will soon visit the same plant multiple times. The bees will always pollinate the whole flower, which produces perfect fruit. When you get something odd looking from the greengrocer, this can be a sign of poor pollination from another insect.
Commercial beekeepers have hundreds of hives which can be moved near crops at exactly the right time for pollination, which can increase yields dramatically.
In China, where they have eradicated the native honey bee population due to the excessive use of pesticides and loss of habitat, farms are forced to employ workers to hand pollinate the crops. A hugely inferior and costly method compared to insect pollination.
On a personal level, becoming a beekeeper makes you take more notice of the seasons, and your natural environment, as they’re so fundamental to the behaviour, and health of a hive. It also increases your awareness of the impact of wider environmental issues that affect bees.
The relationship between bees and their keepers has always captured the imagination. If we can educate our children to understand the vital role insect pollinators have, and how we can protect them, the bees might have a brighter future ahead, a good thing for us all.