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LETTER: Survival of bees vital to humans

July 23rd, 2016 5:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

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SIR – Among the EU rules and regulations is the one for a special habitat for the solitary bee. It got me thinking on bees, now in midsummer, when they are at their busiest. There are three main species in Ireland and the UK; solitary, honey and bumble bees. 

They get their carbs from honey and protein from pollen. We can forget how bees are important to our survival with over 200 species worldwide. Scientist Albert Einstein figured that, if bees disappeared off the earth, humans would have four years left to live.

It works alone in its foraging, but what good work it does, with millions of them making honey and royal jelly. It is for themselves, and in the wild it is, but commercially, we humans rob them for our benefit. 30% or more of what we eat and drink is dependent on their pollinating plants. 

A hive divides when it gets too big and scouts are sent out to find a new location. This can take days. They swarm and leave the nest with an old or new queen. 

A bee will do a dance or routine showing the others in the hive the direction and distance to a new food source. Beekeepers say they are always learning something new about them.

They attack when they perceive a threat like what happened to an unlucky animal on a farm in the US a few years ago, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bees descended on it by the thousands, and stung it to death. It is a rare event, but it shows the power of a bee multiplied by many is a force to be reckoned with. 

In hot weather they use water to cool the hive via fanning their wings to evaporate the droplets. They see ultra-violet light to help them zoom in on the pollen, etc.

They can have their addictions: In a brewery in the US, they had a problem with bees visiting one of their vats and getting drunk on the alcohol liquid as it fermented. They were found dazed and inebriated by the vats. 

In some local gardens with beehives, they noticed at the same time the honey changing colour. It didn’t damage the honey.

There are 1,400 commercial beekeepers in the US with hobby beekeepers who don’t have to register. In Ireland there are couple of hundred commercial and hobby beekeepers.   

Bee numbers are declining because of diseases and from very poor weather conditions some years with less pollen and nectar available. Bee-keeping arrived in Ireland with the Celts.

Mary Sullivan,

Cork.

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