As the sun rises, a hum in the air forms as the bees start to move their wings. One of the thousands of black-and-yellow striped workers flies out, and then another and another. This particular worker bee heads to a Marula tree; he has a special kind of relationship with trees and in he’s partial to a nice Marula.
This is a mutualistic relationship where both parties benefit; bees pollinate the plants and in turn the plants provide food for them in the form of pollen. Marula trees produce Marula fruit which provides food for elephants, baboons and the delicious flavour in an Amarula drink, which those of you who have been to Londolozi, I am sure know well.
After collecting the pollen from the Marula flower, as if the route is highlighted and the little worker makes a beeline (I had to say it) to its hive. Even though their brains are the size of a sesame seed, bees have the ability to communicate and receive information about all the plants each forager bee has been to.
They do a Waggle Dance, exposing their pollen sacs to each other, communicating which direction the Marula tree is and whether it is worth it or not to go there and collect more pollen.
It takes 1000 bees visiting 4 million flowers to make 1kg of honey! One bee will only make one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its entire life!
Try wrap your head around that when spreading honey on your toast…
So where am I going with this? The point that I’m trying to get across is that they serve a great role in the ecosystem, far greater than we can even imagine, and its a role that humans have only recently started waking up to.
An interesting perspective to look at is that beehives can arguably be considered as a mammal:
- The hive acts as the skin and form.
- They have a low level of offspring which are the swarm.
- Bees produce milk for their young.
- Hives also have to maintain a temperature of around 94 degrees Fahrenheit/ 35 degrees Celsius which is not too far from our natural core temperature.
These factors could lead us to believe that they could be mammals. Has anyone seen a natural beehive? If you have, next time try imagine this idea.
Unfortunately, bees are now considered endangered. Luckily many people are starting to become more aware of this and are placing beehives in their gardens to give them a good chance of survival. At Londolozi, to do our part, we have placed many beehives around camp. Honey is made by bees and plants flower because of bees, and animals grow because of bees. Surely they’re deserving of all the help we can give them?
Filed under Wilderness teachings Wildlife
Lovely blog Jess. Bees are very important to the environment, and as you mentioned endangered. Honey has got loads of health benefits. I now only use honey when I bake as it is so much better than using sugar.
Jess, what a wonderful story, I never knew that a single bee could only make 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its life.
Jess thanks for highlighting bees. People so underestimate their level of importance in the whole scheme of things. Here in the United States we are having a problem with our bee population. Not enough is being done to help them survive but the world would experience a great loss if they do not thrive. Thanks again
Thanks so much for this blog post. Bees are critical to everyone, so many people are afraid of them & are unaware of their critically important role in the eco-system.
Well, I’ve read a lot about bees and their endangerment. What was jaw dropping was the minuscule amount of honey each bee makes….and yes, I WILL think about that when it’s toast time at my home! Interesting post!
Really good factual blog Jess. I’ve always been fascinated by the lives of bees and to this end, have planted many varieties of vegetation to provide them with the pollen essential to their survival. Their favorites seem to be the lavender blooms and lemon tree flowers here in Northern California.
If only we better understood the Waggle Dance! It’s fascinating to watch which we’ve seen because of a hive built up against s window by researchers. Really interesting!!!
A really great blog Jess. We take the insect world for granted and without bees we would not have a lot of our food stuff. Unfortunately not enough is being done to assist these hard working little souls. Thank you for bringing this issue up.