What a Honey Bee Would Say about Her Life and Heartbreak … But Who Listens and Why You Should?
“What we think about the environment is shaped by what we say about the environment, and that in turn affects what we do, or what we don’t do, about environmental concerns. That’s why for me communication is so important: it’s how we make meaning, how we share meaning, it’s how we motivate and inspire people to take action for positive change.” Geo Takach, Associate Professor of Communication and Culture, Royal Roads University
Too often the less we know the more we assume we know. Bees make honey and their survival is threatened. This is not good enough to save them. How much do you know about their anatomy, their pollination process or ways to help their survival? Is honey contaminated for humans as well? Let’s try and listen to what a honey bee might say.
Hello, People. Your name for me is Bee, so let it be. Why such a tiny word to represent everything I do for Earth being mainly responsible for 70% of the world’s food supply through pollination that is my exclusive domain.
In fact, bees are declared the most important living being on the planet for good reason because of pollination. The tragedy is how quickly they are disappearing.
In fact, in all modesty, perhaps if you knew a little more about my kind, then the more you can truly appreciate my small being and magnificent worth.
I am a female honey bee belonging to a species of more than 20,000 insects including wasps and bumblebees. I live in a colony either in a nest (wild) or hive(beekeeper) with about 60,000 other bees most of them workers making honey to store in honeycombs. My mother is called the queen bee who is responsible for laying all the eggs, groomed and fed by male drones.
I may only live to fly a few weeks of the year, having spent the rest of the year in my cell as an egg, larva, pupa, and young adult. Interestingly, female bees have the necessary anatomical structures to do all the work of nest making and provisioning; male bees called drones never collect pollen.
I think I look beautiful with golden and brown bands, well covered with thousands of sensory feathered body hairs to better carry pollen. I have no internal bones but an external skeleton that helps protect my delicate internal structures.
You can see that my body has three main body parts: head, thorax and abdomen with three pairs of legs used for walking along with two pairs of wings; the forewings closest to the head and the hind wings farthest away. I’m very proud of a pair of movable segmented antennae attached to my head that can detect currents and scents like numerous sugars or bitter foods. Can you imagine I even have antennae cleaners on each foreleg, little notches filled with stiff hairs that help to clean them?
I think my face is beautifully functional with compound eyes made of many light detectors called ommatidia. My tube-like mouth is perfect to suck up plant juices protected by outside mandibles strong enough to even manipulate beeswax. I won’t show you my hairy tongue but it’s useful to stick into nectar to pull it in toward the mouth.
And don’t forget the stinger that can pierce the skin and pump venom into the wound. But only watch out for the female worker bees; their stingers have barbed ends that remain in the victim. Drones (males) do not have a stinger.
People say I must have a brain because I can process information used in navigation and communication as well as memory. I call it my “waggle dance language” that uses the sun and gravity to help orient other bees to the sources of the sweetest flowers.
My Pollination Value to the Earth
I do so love the smell and shapes of flowers and their intricate structures from the stem and sepals that hold upright the bright petals, the anthers that contain the pollen, the sensitive stigma that catches the pollen and the ovary where fertilized seeds can develop into fruit.
How I love nectar, this sweet viscous juice of sweet sugars also containing traces of proteins, salts, acids and essential oils usually produced at the base of blossoms. I burrow inside the heart of the petals sticking my tongue to drink it up, storing its delicious goodness in my special honey stomach ready to mix with my own enzymes and transfer back to make honey at the hives.
Along the way, perchance, my fuzzy body knocks off some of the flower’s pollen unto its stigma. You probably know that pollen is a mass of microspores in a seed plant usually appearing as a fine dust. Each pollen grain is a minute body, of varying shape and structure, formed in the male structures of seed-bearing plants and transported by various means such as insects to the female structures, where fertilization occurs. But don’t worry about the technical part … just understand that without my search for nectar there would be no fertilization and no development of fruits or vegetables.
My life is all about pollination… the act of transferring pollen grains from the male anther of a flower to the female stigma. My purpose is to sustain and assist Earth in the valuable operation of every living organism, including plants, to create offspring for the next generation by making seeds in order to produce a new plant.
Honey, of course, is the delicious healthy byproduct. Speaking for myself, I can only produce around one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in my lifetime. In reality, it takes about 556 foraging bees to visit 2 million flowers flying a total of 55000 miles to make just one pound of honey.
My Heartbreak at the Loss of So Many of my Kind
But I’m afraid, very afraid, because the buzz in the air is that almost 90% of our bee population has been wiped out in the last few years!
We are exposed to more air, light and sound pollution and car exhausts that interrupt our scent cues or memory ability and reduce our activities. Our colonies are undergoing stress because of habitat loss, deforestation, urbanization, more invasive species and less variety of nutritious flowers.
Uncontrolled use of pesticides is probably the main reason for our decline.
I know we have been exposed to pesticides for a long time. After all, these deadly toxins are often directly sprayed on our source of nutrition where we consume the pollen and nectar directly. I’ve heard of hundreds of bees immediately dying when aerially sprayed, not able to return to the hive that affects the queen, brood and colony disorder.
How would your body feel by directly ingesting pesticides? Some scientific studies have shown how even relatively low levels of neonicotinoids can still have sublethal effects on bees, causing disorientation and other cognitive problems that can influence bee colony survival. Imagine what happens by feeding our larvae a combination of these poisons with the pollen.
What about the honey people eat? Is it also contaminated?
A new study shows neonicotinoids — a commonly used pesticide that many scientists say is harmful to honeybees — are widely found in honey samples from around the world. The study, published in the journal Science, found neonicotinoids in 75 per cent of honey samples collected between 2012 and 2016 at levels known to be neuroactive in bees, meaning they can affect the insects’ cognitive function.
Do you respect my value enough to offer protection?
Caused by human interference, I wonder if human activism can draw within the ranks of government to help protect us and the Earth’s food cycles?
You can demand to stop the use of the most dangerous pesticides and herbicides and eliminate the use of chemical fertilizers.
Farmers can be encouraged to practice more natural agricultural alternatives by diversifying their crops instead of relying on a mono-crop. They can natural compost to maintain soil fertility and limit air and water erosion.
You can advocate to preserve the wild habitat, species and diversity of ecosystems through affiliations and campaigns.
Let me say at the end, please don’t allow me to be destroyed, don’t ignore me or underestimate my importance. In all humility, we are essential to perpetuate growth and beautify habitats for everyone. Maybe you think I’m too small to threaten anyone, except maybe with a sting, but I’ve heard these words before:
If the bee disappears off the surface of the globe, then men would only have four years to live … Albert Einstein
Any more knowledge or comments about our wonderful bees will always be appreciated.