The buzz about why honeybees are important

Much of the delicious food we enjoy grows thanks to bees and other pollinators

Did you hear the buzz? Honeybees are awesome! From giving honey to playing a huge role in our ecosystem, the importance of honeybees is immeasurable. Plus, they’re very cute!

Humans owe a lot to bees. Much of the delicious food we enjoy comes from bees. While honeybees are not in danger of extinction like many other bee species, their health is essential to the survival and vigor of all bees. That’s quite a job for a small bug.

The importance of honeybees

Coming back to how honeybees help people, let’s talk about food. According to the US Department of Agriculture, some scientists say that every 1 in 3 bites of food we eat is made up of bees and other pollinators. These foods include fruits, nuts, and vegetables.

“They play a critical role in the transfer of pollen from flower to flower, which is called pollination,” said Sandra Power, a horticulturist with the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA). “Many plant species – not all – need a pollinator to produce fruit and seeds, which in turn provides food for wildlife and helps maintain a healthy ecosystem.”

New York state even has a plan to help bees and other pollinators.

If you’re intrigued by bees, there’s an event at the beehive in Rockefeller Park, at 75 Battery Pl., that you’ll love. The BPCA organizes Meet the Beekeeper on Friday September 23, 13:30-14:30. During a presentation and talk led by Alveole beekeepers, bee enthusiasts will learn about the importance of urban beekeeping and its benefit to sustainability efforts in Battery Park City and throughout New York City.

History of honeybees

Frankly, some flowers can pollinate themselves or even get pollen from a strong gust of wind. But here’s a perspective: Honeybees pollinate about 40% of our food crops, Power explained.

“That’s important,” said Power. “We have had a relationship with honeybees for 9,000 years. Since we worked the land. We carried them with us and benefited from their honey and beeswax.”

Interestingly enough, honey bees are not native to the United States. They were brought over by early settlers and have become a domesticated species.

“I think part of the reason why everyone is so fascinated by it is that the relationship we have with honey bees is very long. It’s almost in our DNA. There are many different types of bees that are very important, but honey bees because of their social aspect – there is a lot of fascination around them.”

So, what is this social aspect of honey bees? They form colonies, they have a queen, many workers and a smaller percentage of drones (the males that mate with the queen).

“Bees also have personalities. Some are docile, others aggressive,” explained Power.

This sounds like a whole bee soap. Maybe nature can call it, The Bold and the Bee-utiful?

Honeybees in winter

Honey bees live throughout the four seasons. The bees in the hive in Battery Park City in Rockefeller Park are quite docile. Very chill, explained Power. In winter they stay in their hive and can maintain a constant temperature. Pretty cool.

And back to food talk again, the Battery Park bees’ honey has just been harvested, Power said, adding that it’s very kind of them to share this delicious substance with people.

What you can do to help bees

Climate change is impacting bee populations worldwide, scientists say as unprecedented flooding, high temperatures and wildfires increase worldwide. But dr. Asli Samanci, food scientist, bee expert and founder of Bee&You, there are ways to meet these challenges.

“Our lifestyles and approaches to conserve energy and water resources would contribute to efforts to control the adverse effects of climate change on Earth and consequently the bee population,” Samanci said. “However, there are still simple actions we can take to save the bee population. For example, we can plant bee-friendly flowers in our garden.”

All these actions can help. As Samanci said, “If there’s a bee, there’s life.”

Power agrees that there are many things homeowners can do to help this important animal. What bees, pollinators and all living things need is a living environment – a home. For bees, this includes having places to eat and suitable plants to pollinate. Power even suggested talking to neighbors about how to save bees.

“Maybe you make a promise with your neighbors to avoid chemical pest control,” Power said. Pesticides can cause all sorts of problems. They can disorient bees and cause stress.”

You can also help bees by providing a continuous source of nectar and pollen by planting things that bloom from early spring through fall. Another tip is to ask your nursery or garden center if the plants you buy have been grown without chemicals.

“We can maintain our garden without chemical pesticides and prefer organic solutions for our flowers and trees,” Samanci added.

Bee Species in NYC

Now that we know the importance of honeybees, here are some other bees that you may not know are native to NYC, specifically Battery Park City:

Want to know more about bees and other pollinators? You can catch the buzz at pollinatornativeplants.com.

Main image: Battery Park City Authority

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