Put simply, bees pollinate our plants, which means they carry pollen between plants of different sexes to fertilise them, or even between different parts of the same plant, which help plants reproduce. Bees even help plants survive by preventing inbreeding.
Bees are essential for the health of people and the planet. Honey and other products have medicinal properties, and the role of bees as pollinators makes them vital for food supplies.
There are around 20,000 known bee species worldwide, and over 4,000 are native to the United States. Humans only manage a few of these, and most species are wild.
As well as valuing bees for their honey, people have come to recognize the importance of bees in promoting food security and variety in plants and animals.
Over the past 50 years, the amount of crops that depend on pollinators (i.e. fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts and oilseeds) has tripled. Bees play an important role in relation to the scope of agricultural production. Effective pollination increases the amount of agricultural produce, improves their quality and enhances plants’ resistance to pests.
Bees are vital for the preservation of ecological balance and biodiversity in nature. They provide one of the most recognisable ecosystem services, i.e. pollination, which is what makes food production possible. By doing so, they protect and maintain ecosystems as well as animal and plant species, and contribute to genetic and biotic diversity.
Bees also act as indicators of the state of the environment. Their presence, absence or quantity tells us when something is happening with the environment and that appropriate action is needed. By observing the development and health of bees, it is possible to ascertain changes in the environment and implement the necessary precautionary measures in time.