Think about your favorite breakfast. Maybe it’s a cup of coffee or an avocado toast– either way, you can thank honey bees for that delicious meal.
Beyond pollinating our gardens and providing honey, honey bees are responsible for one-third of the food that we eat. Unlike other pollinators, honey bees are generalists, meaning they visit any flower that offers nectar. These social creatures can be transported anywhere to feed and pollinate any ecosystem, from avocado farms to coffee plantations.
We often identify the food we buy from grocery stores as clean and perfect but this is not the whole truth. Think about avocados– they do look great, but do you actually know what happens to them from the time they are planted until they are displayed at the grocery store? All those perfect-looking, shiny fruits and vegetables are often treated with a large number of chemicals that are harmful to us, our environment, and also, for the honey bees.
There is currently a disconnect between the farm-to-table concept as we don’t often realize the process behind the food we eat. When fruits and vegetables are treated with pesticides, the chemicals also make their way into our soil and water sources. There is a risk of the water sources and the soil becoming contaminated, and the species living within them getting sick and in the worst-case scenario, not being able to survive.
In the long run, these harmful pesticides may therefore make the whole ecosystem unbalanced. The price we pay for clean and perfect fruits and vegetables is much higher than we realize. We must recognize how the food we buy arrives at our table and the entire process behind the production of this food. Once we acknowledge the impact of our food purchases we can make healthier choices for ourselves and the honey bees such as focusing on in-season produce from local, organic farmers.
Honey bees are at risk – why?
According to Bloomberg, honeybee death rates doubled in the past few years. Almost 40% of the honey bee population unexpectedly collapsed in 2019 alone. These rates of loss are scaring environmentalists and farmers alike.
The drop in honey bee population is driven by a number of factors — parasites and climate change among the top. Warmer temperatures pose new challenges for honey bees and make it harder to navigate ecosystems.
Plus, the warming climate is a breeding ground for the Varroa mite, a parasite that impairs honey bees. Once infested by this parasite, honeybee hives lose worker bees, make less honey, and collapse within a year.
So, what does this mean about our diet?
Whether you’re a self-proclaimed foodie or an avid cook, honey bees are essential for several key ingredients.
This go-to healthy snack and infamous milk alternative is also the most pollination-dependent U.S. crop. Honey bees move from between almond trees and pollinate almond blossoms. Once fertilized, these flowers eventually grow into an almond.
Over 80% of the world’s almond supply comes from California. Without honeybees, the world’s almond supply will disappear.
Although we mostly drink Arabica coffee, a self-pollinating plant, bees are still a key ingredient to our morning brew. Honey bees are known as a pollination booster, increasing coffee plantation yield by 20 to 25 percent. Some coffee buyers even claim that bees help to produce higher quality coffee.
This millennial-approved breakfast staple is dependent entirely on honeybee pollination. Avocado flowers have both male organs, which produce pollen, and female organs, which receive pollen. Interestingly, avocado flowers are only open for 2-6 hours per day, so honey bees are essential to transporting pollen and fertilizing avocado flowers.
Blueberry pollen is sticky and heavy, so it relies solely on bees to move around and pollinate flowers. Blueberry farms use several types of bees to pollinate, but you most commonly find honey bees and bumblebees,
Cucumber farms are bustling with honey bee hives. According to the Michigan State university Vegetable Entomology Lab, cucumber flowers need around 8 to 10 honey bee visits. This pollination-dependent crop would not thrive without honey bees.
No summer picnic is complete without watermelons– or honey bees! Watermelon flowers have a small pollination window, so honey bees play a significant role in producing this fruit.
This superfood and protein shake staple grow and thrive because of honey bees. Kale flowers grow close to one another, allowing bees to easily move from flower to flower. This means that bees more easily pollinate kale flowers and let kale grow in abundance.
You may have a love-hate relationship with broccoli as a kid, but there’s no denying that this vegetable is a key ingredient to a healthy, balanced diet. It’s easy to spot bees roaming around broccoli flowers from mid to late summer. Honey bees pollinate broccoli flowers and allow farmers to more quickly expand their broccoli production.
The fall season would not be the same without pumpkin carving or pumpkin pies. Squash bees (which resemble honey bees) help pollinate zucchini and butternut squash. These bees let us carry our centuries-old, family-bonding traditions!
This natural sweetener, a pantry staple, and breakfast must-have would not exist without honey bees. Only 7 percent of bees can make honey, which is the main source of food and energy for bee colonies. Honey bees create honey by extracting nectar and pollen from flowers–feeding bees and humans alike!
Beyond honey production, honey bees are a key ingredient to many of our favorite foods. Integrating eco-friendly practices and reducing our carbon footprint can help protect bees and keep food on our table.
How You Can Help Honey Bees Cultivate Our Food Systems
You can start in your own backyard. Use the Perpetual Pollen’s Everbee solution in your yard to combat the honey bee’s most existential threat, the Varroa mite. It’s the first science-backed consumer product to help save the bees and is coming soon.