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We humans value the hardworking bees primarily for the honey they provide us. But bees have an even more important task: they pollinate the majority of all wild and cultivated plants. Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer bees in the world. But there are simple ways you can help them.

Bees and humans

Bees have existed on this planet for a very long time. The discovery of a fossilized bee encased in amber has shown that these busy insects already existed 35 million years ago - long before the development of the first humans. 

When exactly people began to collect honey as food is not known. But there is evidence that people from the Stone Age had already acquired a taste for the golden nectar. However, they did not yet practice systematic beekeeping. The so-called "honey hunters" simply climbed trees and robbed the hives.

Beekeeping began when our ancestors switched to cattle breeding and agriculture. For many early civilizations, however, honey was far more than just food. In ancient Egypt, honey was considered the "food of the Gods" and a source of immortality. The Greeks, too, offered honey to their deities. Greek scholars also used honey as medicine and it was also very popular as a commodity and means of payment.

Honey: a miracle substance?

Since we have a whole range of sweeteners available today, honey is no longer quite as important to us as it once was. Nevertheless, the "liquid gold" is still very popular. Honey is often praised as being particularly healthy. But is it really?

Like refined sugar, honey consists mainly of glucose and fructose. It is rich in calories and can therefore not generally be described as healthy. However, honey can be beneficial for you, if you enjoy it in moderation.

This is mainly due to the antioxidants contained in honey. These can lower high blood pressure and thus prevent heart attacks and strokes. 

Furthermore, the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of honey promote wound healing and make honey a genuine virus killer. Especially in winter, honey can strengthen the immune system and help against colds.

If you add honey to your tea or hot milk, make sure to let the drink cool down a bit first: The healing enzymes in the honey are destroyed by temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius.

The important work of bees

Honey is a valuable substance and we rightly appreciate bees for this sweet food. But both honey bees and wild bees have an even more important task than making honey: they play a key role in pollinating most plants.

The interplay between bees and flowers is truly perfectly coordinated: Plants produce flowers with specific scents and colors to attract the bees' attention. When a bee lands on a flower, it begins to suck up the nectar from the flower with its straw-like tongue. In the process, pollen from the blossom stick to the bee's hairy body. When the bee then flies to the next flower, it transfers the pollen to the flower’s stigma, which is the top of the female plant organ.

In this way, honey bees and wild bees pollinate around 80 percent of all flowering plants worldwide. This includes not only wild plants - a third of all the food we consume also depends on bee pollination. Many animals, especially birds, also depend on bees as a food source. That's why bees play an important role in biodiversity as well.

What is killing the bees?

Unfortunately, the number of bees worldwide is steadily decreasing. This is probably due to a combination of reasons. Some of the main causes of bee decline include:

  1. Intensive agriculture: Agriculture designed for maximum yield has many negative effects on nature overall, not just on bees. Many insects struggle to find nesting sites or food in monotonous agricultural landscapes. In addition, high amounts of synthetic insecticides are used, which also attack bees.
  1. The loss of habitats: We are using more and more land area for settlements, industry, traffic or agriculture. There is hardly any space left for bees and other insects to live.
  1. Climate change: Climate change is upsetting the rhythms of insects and plants. For example, many plants are suddenly blooming much earlier in the year. Mild winters, long dry spells in summer and frequent temperature changes add to the stress. 
  1. Parasites and diseases: The varroa mite in particular is causing problems for many bee colonies. It was brought to Europe from Asia about 30 years ago. In contrast to Asian colonies, European bee colonies are not resistant to the mite infestation, which usually leads to their death. 

3 tips how you can help the bees

You too can help protect the bees. With these simple tips you can support the bees in their important work:

Create a bee garden

If you have a garden or balcony, there are many ways to make it more bee-friendly.

Flowering shrubs, flower meadows and flower beds with local flower mixtures provide the bees with plenty of pollen and nectar. But be careful which flowers you buy. Some flowers have been grown by humans for their beautiful blooms, but they do not produce any nectar.

Lavender, daisies, bluebells or sunflowers provide the bees with plenty of food and can also be grown on the balcony without any problems.

Put up a bee hotel

Wild bees in particular are threatened with extinction in many countries. You can help them by providing nesting opportunities in your garden or on your balcony. You can find finished bee hotels online for little money, or you can build your own.

Shop bee-friendly

You can also support the bees while shopping:

  • Buy local honey from organic beekeepers: Cheap honey from the supermarket doesn't have to be bad. But whether it meets the requirements for environmentally friendly, chemical-free and sustainable beekeeping is not clear. By buying regional organic honey, you not only support the beekeepers and their bees, but also the wild plants and crops in your area.
  • Choose seasonal food from regional organic agriculture: organic farmers do not use harmful pesticides. In addition, they do not cultivate monocultures. Instead, organic farmers create a diverse habitat for insects through crop rotation, and cultivating fallow land and grassland.

To make it even easier for you to remember the bees the next time you go shopping, we have put together a bee-friendly shopping list for you. Take a look at which products the bees particularly like:

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