Sweet as Honey
March 20, 2021
By DON LUEPKE
This is the second in our series of articles on Pollinators.
When thinking about pollinators, the first to come to mind is often the European honey bee (Apis mellifera). Although not native to America, it is the most well-known member of the bee family. Familiar sayings abound such as “Busy as a bee”. It is the only insect that directly produces a food for human consumption – delicious sweet honey.
Honey and beeswax are commodities prized for thousands of years in civilizations all around the world. But interestingly, the majority of the beekeeping industry’s income is not from honey but rather from pollinating services. Bees are economically important as they are extremely competent pollinators who dwell in highly populated social units (hives) that are relatively easy to regulate by controlling their numbers, location, and ability to move them to new areas. This makes them valuable partners in specific agricultural areas. For instance, the almond crop is almost totally dependent on honey bees for pollination and successful harvests.
Honey bees are highly social beings, dwelling together with thousands of fellow “citizens.” And thus communication is absolutely essential in their “work”, including pollination. In fact, honey bees have one of the most complex symbolic languages on Earth. Their basic modes, similar to humans, use various stimuli – light, chemical and physical – that are perceived by sensory organs. They use a variety of different dances to “talk” with each other and emit chemical pheromones to send key messages to other members of the colony.
Honey bee population has declined recently through events such as the colony collapse disorder in 2006. What can private citizens do to help honey bees thrive? The University of Missouri Extension office suggests that “…gardeners can make a difference by increasing habitat favorable to pollinators and reducing insecticide use.” Favorable habitat in northeast Indiana includes planting species pictured in this article, including asters, milkweed and also bee balm.
Pollinators such as honey bees are key and valued members of the ecological community of Clear Lake Township by helping our native plants reproduce to create the natural beauty we cherish. They may also add a sweet touch of honey to our breakfast table.
- Honey Bees as Pollinators, Their Habitats and Products, M403 | MU Extension (missouri.edu)
- Pollination Facts - American Beekeeping Federation (abfnet.org)
- 10 facts about honey bees! | National Geographic Kids (natgeokids.com)