Everyone knows that bees make delicious honey but actually, they are far more important than that.

VITAL TO THE Quality and Quantity of our food

Scientists estimate that 35% of global crop production relies on bee pollination. In other words, every third bite of food is thanks to the hard work of bees.

Not only do these insects contribute to the quantity of our food, they add to the quality too – without bees we would not have many ingredients that make cooking and eating a joy. Most of the flavourful spices, fragrant herbs, fresh fruits, vegetables and even nuts we eat are flowering plants. Even the best grass-fed meats owe their unique flavour and fat marbling from pastures rich in clover and wildflowers. Although people could still eat in a world without bees, our food would be dull and not as nutritious.

VITAL TO OUR FLORA AND FAUNA

Without bees, even flowers would not be so colourful and fragrant. Bees and flowers evolved closely together and this coevolutionary relationship influenced the development of each. The amazing diversity of bees (there are more species of bees than all birds and mammals combined – not just honeybees!) is directly linked to the vast array of flowering plants. Meanwhile flowers adopted the most attractive smells, shapes and colours to encourage bee visitors. Without bees, flowers might have coevolved with other pollinators like wasps and flies which are attracted to aromas of rotting meat – a far cry from the blooms we delight in today.

VITAL TO OUR EVOLUTION

Bees have been producing honey in the same way for over 150 million years, and the first record of people keeping bees was about 6000 BC. People kept bees long before we tamed horses or farmed familiar crops like apples, oats, or coffee beans. Mead, a drink made with fermented honey, has been consumed for 9,000 years, making it one of the oldest alcoholic beverages.

However recent research undertaken by nutritional anthropologists at the University of Nevada suggests that our connection to bees goes back millions of years.

Their work shows that our ancient ancestors had a primeval sweet tooth and sought out hives and bees. According to the study, early man’s diet would have included up to 15% honey, which would have had a remarkable impact on our human evolution, which has always been a story of brain size. The human brain is metabolically expensive; 20% of our daily calories go towards fuelling the brain, which is just 2% of our whole body weight. Over aeons of human evolution, every surge in brain size is associated with a surge of calories – e.g. improved tools for hunting and the introduction of fire and cooking.

Honey is the most energy-rich food in nature and the glucose gained from seeking out beehives may indeed have helped bolster an increase in brain size over time. Along with hunting, cooking and other innovations, bees and their honey are in fact a major contributing factor of who we are as human beings.

VITAL THAT WE ACT

However our bees are in danger and today there is an ever-growing body of scientific evidence which points to the damaging impact of neonicotinoid pesticides on pollinating insects, including bumblebees and honey bees. Industrial farming techniques using high levels of chemical inputs and monoculture practices are damaging our wildlife populations and ecosystems – 75% of UK butterfly species have declined in the past decade and eight of our 25 bumblebee species are threatened, with two already extinct! Studies show on average that organic farms have 48% more species of pollinators than non-organic farms – you do the calculations. Your choices matter more than ever.

WATCH OUR FILM

Please watch our film below to find out more about the plight of our bees and what you can each do in your own homes and gardens to protect this vital species #CHOOSEORGANIC #SAVETHEBEES.

Illustrator and Maker
Luisa Crosbie
Animator
Allegra Pilkington