Since the beginning of society, the origin and nature of bees has awakened the curiosity of humankind. For five million years, this humble, fuzzy insect has been an animal of special sanctity, symbolizing many things such as: the human soul, industry, creativity, cooperation and the sweet gifts of nature. Bee gods and goddesses were worshiped by Mayans, Hindus, Sumerians and the ancient Greeks who called their priestesses “Melissa” (“bees”). The Emperor Napoleon even adopted the bee as his personal badge.
Although prehistoric petroglyphs depict people on honey hunts, the ancient Egyptians are believed to truly be the first to originate the keeping of honeybees. Egyptian tombs from 2400BC depict beekeepers collecting honey as well as traveling with hives for the purpose of pollinating crops. The bee was so important to the Egyptians that they used bees as a symbol of regal power.
Traditionally, beekeeping was undertaken to benefit from the bee’s honey, which was used as a sweeter as well as a medicine since raw honey is an anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal substance. Not all bees produce honey – two that do are the honeybee and melipona bees. Today, commercial beekeepers work with honey, mason and other bees to pollinate millions of crops across America.
Why does this matter to you?
Then, as now, bees have played a crucial role in our ecosystem. Did you know that a third of the fruits and vegetables we eat depend on bees for pollination? Honeybees in particular play a vital role as pollinators, which is why their sudden-die off (Colony Collapse Disorder) in recent years is such a critical environmental issue.
No Bees = No Fruits, Nuts or Vegetables
Fruits and nuts dependent on bees: Almonds, watermelons, cantaloupes, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, apples, cherries, oranges, peaches and kiwifruit.
Vegetables dependent on bees for yield: Cucumbers, squash, select peas and select beans.
Poor quality without bees: Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and okra.
What can you do to help the bees?
While we don’t yet know what is causing Colony Collapse Disorder, we do know that forces like habitat destruction, invasive species, overuse of pesticides, global warming and other environmental stresses create risks to honeybees. Visit our Garden and Act pages to learn more about what you can do to help!