Importance of Honeybees to Human Food Supply

International Endangered Species Day was May 21, and I missed writing about it then because I was drafting the final chapters of Being Alien, fourth book in my Other Worldly series coming this fall, in which I address the plight of the honeybee in both the US and the UK.

Endangered species are plants and animals in danger of becoming extinct. Due to such things as habitat loss, there are eight species of bees on the US endangered list pursuant to the Endangered Species Act, including bumblebees, but honeybees are not currently among them.

For myriad reasons, it’s a stellar idea to prevent such a daunting distinction from becoming a reality, for both honeybees and humans.

Honeybees are not native to the US. They were brought here from Europe by colonists in the 17th century for edible honey and beeswax to make things such as candles. Beeswax is produced from glands in a honeybee’s abdomen.

Of 20,000 known bee species on Earth, only seven are honeybees, the best known being the Western honeybee.

Today, honeybees are important pollinators that contribute to both agriculture and ecosystems, but it’s possible agriculture can also harm honeybees due to pesticide use. Not to mention habitat loss from overdevelopment of wild areas, leaving less room for flowers and plants bees need to survive.

Beyond flora, if honeybee populations decline, many creatures such as bee-eating birds would lose a food source, further impacting natural systems and food webs—including those of humans.

This is because honeybees play a huge role in our nation’s food production, increasing US crop values by more than $15 billion annually. A sweet deal indeed.

A single bee colony gathers about 40 pounds of pollen and 265 pounds of nectar each year. In 2019, the USDA reported more than 2.8 million honey-producing colonies making 157 million pounds of honey.

In Being Alien, it’s noted how bees need diverse food sources for a healthy diet, so it’s imperative they have flowers to forage and safe places for nesting. Furthermore, honeybees must have plants and places free of harmful pesticides.

Plus, 70 out of the top 100 food crops in the world , supplying nearly 90 percent of Earth’s nutrition, are pollinated by bees.

Set in Great Britain, Being Alien notes how honeybees perform about 80 percent of all pollination on Earth. And a single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers in a single day.

In Scotland, those flowers include its national emblem, the Scottish thistle, a symbol of resilience. Rowan Layne, protagonist of the Other Worldly series, gives thistle honey a taste try, deciding she’s partial to the star thistle variety.

Honeybees perform a valuable service for humans, and they in turn need our help in maintaining their resilience. Any decline in their population can have a devastating impact on human food production and supply, because, as previously noted, honeybees pollinate billions of crops each year in the US alone.

Additionally, Rowan learns there are many health benefits from human consumption of raw honey, including digestion and blood circulation, plus its wide use in skin care products.

In Being Alien, as part of a recurring theme of the interconnectivity of all living things in the universe, an environmental scientist from Mars discusses ways in which the honeybee might assist Labyrinthians in restoring their planet to verdant health and prosperity.

The alien named Rinth wisely notes, “Other species should perhaps be treated with more reverence and respect for what they provide to our world.”


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