Story By Jack Holdsworth and Cameron Patenaude - Norwich Free Academy
If dogs are a man’s best friend, then bees are a close second. That is, if you enjoy eating fruits and vegetables. These insects play a vital role when it comes to growing crops, as pollination is how plants reproduce.
Sarah Lefrancois, NFA art teacher and local beekeeper, understands the importance of bees and how much of an impact their disappearance would have on our crops.
“A bee pollinates a plant by going into the plant,. [It] rubs up against the parts holding the pollen, and packs it up on its legs and its body. It will then go and brush up against another plant, and cross the pollen from one plant to another,” explained Lefrancois.
Bees and flowers represent the concept of interdependence, the dependence of two or more things on each other. “A lot of times, too, they will also bring the pollen back into their hives. It is the highest source of protein for them,” Lefrancois added.
Lefrancois’ bees are thriving. They not only provide honey for her to consume, but also to help the local farmers’ crops flourish. However, bees who are not fortunate enough to have the assistance of a beekeeper have been failing to maintain their colonies’ longevity.
“Bees have struggles… a lot of farms will plant one type of crop, leading to bees having a hard time [finding] food.”
Another factor contributing to the depletion of the bee population is, surprisingly, people mowing their lawns.
“Bees’ biggest food source is dandelions. While people don’t like to see those weeds, they are extremely helpful for bees,” explained Lefrancois.
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is also playing a role in the downfall of bees.
“It is a variety of factors-things taking down beehives such as the varroa mite, viruses brought in by cuts made by the mite, sometimes a lack of food sources,” added Lefrancois.
While honey bees may seem very dependent on the beekeepers, it is important to remember that they actually are not native.
“Bees came here on the Mayflower. The pilgrims brought them over, and some of the first hives were brought here in Massachusetts. Honey bees, in particular, can’t survive without a beekeepers interventions. It is really important we pay attention to local pollinators like bumblebees, carpenter bees, and mason bees. We must provide forage so they can go on to keep pollinating plants.”
Experts warn that bees will go extinct if nothing changes. Countries such as China are forced to pollinate plants by hand, which is a strenuous task with less successful results than the natural pollination process.
It is important to remember that there are many ways to help these insects. Milkweed is a great food source for plants and can be planted easily. You can even feed bees by putting sugar in water and leaving it outside. Planting flowers that bloom every season is another good method of making sure that the bees have enough food.
So, go out and get bee-sy doing your part to help the bees. These insects are often overlooked in their important role in the agricultural world.