When I was little, I observed them, and without really knowing what I was doing, I sometimes captured one in a pot, to observe it and then release it. I didn't realize how important they were, but I found them fascinating!
Today, I understand that they are as vital in our ecosystem as water, or almost. Not only are they an indicator of a healthy planet, they are essential. Why are they so important?
*UNEP Director Achim Steiner, 2011
Bees are thought to have appeared on Earth 100 to 150 million years ago and there are 20,000 different species of bees across the world. They allowed the evolution of flowering plants and it goes without saying, they guaranteed their survival thanks to sexual pollination.
Biodiversity with a capital B
Unlike humans, bees are placed at the top of the list in the balance of biodiversity, and therefore of the ecosystem.
By pollinating, they play a very important role in the growth of plants (trees, flowers and others), which serve as both food and shelter for many species (including humans). They also contribute to the possibility for several species to coexist.
Not only are they responsible for the pollination of several wild seeds (nuts, berries and fruits) which are an essential food source for several species, bees also provide honey to several species in addition to being also part of the food chain of several species of birds (hummingbirds, blackbirds, starlings, etc.) and other insects (mints, spiders, etc.) which feed on them.
Bees also play a very important role for several tree species, making them a vital pollinator for the development of forests across the planet (tropical, wooded savannahs and deciduous forests, etc.).
For humans, they are certainly not just a harmful species when you have a drink on a terrace! They participate greatly in 4 major areas of agriculture and therefore have a direct impact on what we have on our plate: fruit farming, field crops, market gardening and seed production.
The vegetable garden is a refuge for a beautiful diversity of species, such as birds, squirrels and insects. If bees were to disappear, the animals and insects that depend on them would also disappear. It's the same thing for several animal species across the planet and humans are no exception.
What can we do to promote their survival?
First, it has been widely demonstrated by scientists that bees are very sensitive to pesticides, particularly insecticides. It goes without saying that it is best to avoid, for this and many other reasons, the use of such products in the home. This is also an additional reason to favor an organic diet.
Promoting biodiversity can start at home. This may mean having as little grass as possible (and cutting it less often), having a vegetable garden, flowers, fruit trees, shrubs... Do you live in the city and have a balcony? Never mind, you also have the power to encourage a nice little diversity with tomato plants, fine herbs, flowers...
Promoting biodiversity can also mean purchasing fruit and vegetables from market gardeners who themselves offer diversity and discourage monoculture.
Here in Quebec, we have several beekeepers who take great care of the bees. By taking care of them, they are able to extract honey and beeswax while respecting them.