Bees get a bad rap. Nobody likes getting stung, so naturally, most people aren’t the biggest fans of bees. The first time I was stung, I fell victim to the attacks of at least five different bees, and grew to loathe our buzzing friends as a child.
However, little did I know that the bees I had so grown to despise were actually crucial players in the food I enjoyed eating regularly, from apples and grapes to even steak and bacon. As pollinators, bees help fertilize all kinds of different plants, and are adeptly tuned to the task. Their fuzzy exterior and naturally emitting electrostatic charge are key in their ability to attract pollen, and have pollen carrying structures specifically designed for the job. As such, not only do they produce delicious honey, but bees are intricately involved in the production of all kinds of different crops.
According to the Pollinator Partnership, a nonprofit committed to the growth of pollinators, the economic worth of pollination is upwards of $40 billion. Nearly 85 percent of all flowering plants reproduce through the pollination process, as well over three fourths of crops produced here in America. Examples of food created as a direct result of pollination include chocolate, fruits and vegetables, in addition the food supply of animals used in meat production. Truly, without the help of pollinators such as bees, we would not have meals on our plates.
Unfortunately, pollinators are at a heightened risk in this modern age. In the last 10 years, the United States has lost over half of its managed honeybee colonies. Many types of bees, such as the Franklin’s bumble bee, are in danger of extinction. Countries around the world are beginning to witness the effects of this trend, and have undergone measures to combat this decline. However, on the local level, there is plenty of work still yet to be done to help educate the community on the importance of our much-maligned fuzzy allies.
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In the last 10 years, the United States has lost over half of its managed honeybee colonies.
Thankfully, the Asheville-based Bee City USA organization is helping combat the decline of bees around the country. They have helped pass legislation ensuring education and assistance in the fostering of pollinator-friendly “Bee Cities,” and on June 6, the Durham City Council approved a motion to become the 20th Bee City, joining the likes of Seattle and Washington, D.C. This legislation came about through the continued efforts of the Durham Bee City Committee, a group of individuals from various institutions all committed to making Durham the next Bee City.
Bee City USA’s Durham liaison, “Miss Polly Nator” Joanne Andrews is excited for the city’s future as a Bee City and sees it as the ideal candidate for such a title. “We have so many wonderful pro-bee individuals in this city,” Andrews said, “from the amazing Durham County Beekeepers association, to businesses like the Honeygirl Meadery, people really care about our environment here and understand the importance of the bees.”
So forgive the bees you may have maligned over the years for certain stings. It was all just a big misunderstanding.
Josh Perry is a journalism intern with Keep Durham Beautiful, a nonprofit, volunteer organization working in partnership with the City of Durham General Services Department and Durham County to protect the environment and enhance the appearance of Durham.