Written by Sahana Kumar – a grade 5 student of Hiranandani Foundation School, Powai.
Albert Einstein’s quote “If the bee disappears from the surface of the Earth, man would have no more than four years to live” certainly rings true.
Honey Bees don’t just give us honey. They also pollinate flowers like almond, apple,and guava and mustard blossoms. So, as Albert Einstein said, if they go extinct, we just wouldn’t know what to do. Honey Bees are the hardest working insects in the world, flying for almost half of their short 5-6 week lives to collect nectar from
flowers and provide us with honey.There are different types and races of honey bees. They all have unique temperaments.
Let me tell you about the history of the Honeybee.
In the tropical regions of the world, native stingless bees are reared. In Asia, several species are utilized by people. But the Western Honey bee, Apis Mellifera, is the species found most common for honey and pollination. Originating in Africa, it spread around the world and developed into subspecies which have significant
differences in behaviour, tendencies and appearance.
The Egyptians were the first civilization to attempt keeping bees in artificial hives. As the Europeans conquered the world, they established the western honey bee with them .While western honey bees had characteristics that helped it to survive in North America, it did not fare well while imported to the South. In an attempt to breed a honey bee adapted to tropical weather, in 1956, Brazilian scientists imported honey bees from Tanzania. In the following year, some of these bees escaped and bred with the European honey bees in Brazil.
These hybrids are known as Africanized Honey bees. They were perfectly suited to tropical climates and
spread to Mexico and Central America.
The history of honey
The earliest evidence of honey was found in an 8000 year old rock painting in Valencia, Spain. We have bathed with honey and used it to clean our wounds. It was also a source of food. Archaeologists have also found a honeycomb with its honey preserved and edible buried in a Pharaoh’s tomb in Egypt. In the Testament, Israel was described as the land of flowing milk and honey. God gave Jacob honey from the rock and blessed Israel with flour, olive oil and honey. John the Baptist too, ate locusts and wild honey. The Romans used honey to heal their wounds after battle. Hannibal of Carthage fed his army with honey during the invasion of Rome.
During the 10th century, the Kings and Queens of England stored fermented honey wine (mead) in their cellars. The by-products of hives Though many people who hear the word bees associate it with honey, bees do so much more. Hive byproducts soften your skin and boost up your protein intake, among other things
Pollen: It gives you a high protein and vitamin supplement and can be tossed into a wide variety of things including smoothies and stews. Pollen should be
kept in the freezer to keep it as fresh as possible or should just be used immediately.
Beeswax: It is in high demand from various industries as it has an incredible number of uses. It can be used to make wood polish, lip balm, skin lotion,
candles and much more.
Propolis: Propolis is a sticky glue bees make to keep their hives fresh and to hold it together. It is made out of bees saliva and hundreds of other substances and is so special as it is a natural antibiotic. It can be used as an
antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. It is also used to treat minor burns.
Beekeeping – The modern art of rearing bees
Nowadays, there are large farms for bees through which beekeepers can collect honey and other hive byproducts. The bees are put on frames and then kept inside
a beebox. The Adee Honey Farm in South Dakota, USA, with more than 80,000 bee colonies and Comvita in New Zealand with more than 30,000 colonies are among the
world’s largest beekeeping farms. The honey on the bee’s frames can only be harvested if it is cured (honey which is chemically altered by the enzymes in the bees body) and capped(when the honey bees cover the honey with beeswax to seal it) post evaporation. It should be harvested in the late summer.
Threats to Honey bees
As beekeeping progressed, bees started being transported in vans from state to state for
pollination. During the journey, they suffered from lack of food and there was a high risk of fungal infections. The bees were not taken to woodlands with a wide variety of flowers, they were transported to large monocultures where all the flowers bloomed and fell at the same time, leaving the bees with nothing to eat.
This situation gave rise to the Colony Collapse Disorder , in which all the worker bees left the hive, leaving the queen and a comb full of honey. This has led to a serious problem in the honey bee industry. There are problems in India too. One example is The Giant rock bee, Apis Dorsata, which has seen a sharp decline in one of its strongholds in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve in Tamil
Nadu. In larger trees there used to be more than a dozen bee colonies living together, producing mass quantities of honey. But a change in rainfall patterns brought drought, and that, along with tourism has led to a collapse in the number of bees. Before, the tribals could stick with one huge tree for a week and feed 50 families, but now they have to climb 10 trees to get a few litres. Sweet liquids left in plastic cups by tourists have also become a problem. These attract the bees, who try to drink it. The bees get stuck to the cups and cannot fly out to safety.
We need to find out how to stop transporting bees over such long distances and just let them pollinate flowers in their own way. We should make a wide variety of
flowers available to them and just let them pollinate. We should also persuade landowners to let a wild habitat grow near their fields.
Written by Sahana Kumar
Sahana is an avid reader, likes politics and history and geography. She swims competitively. She loves art. She is a student of Hiranandani Foundation School, Powai and is currently in Grade 5 and would mostly move to Grade 6 without writing her exams
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