The Bees’ Knees

It’s World Bee Day tomorrow and appropriately enough I can hear buzzing from the shed today. Honeybees keep trying to squeeze in between the wooden slats and get frustrated before reversing back out. Bumble bees drift clumsily by as if learning how to fly for the first time, now and then knocking against the window. There’s also the odd wasp, but since they don’t yet have their own UN-designated day, they note our attention on their insect cousins and are probably preparing to attack in jealous retaliation.

So it’s all about the bees. Here’s a few fun facts plus a delectable Brian Bilston poem (beautifully handwritten on this card last year by my friend, Roberta).

1. They are under threat 
Bees and other pollinators, such as butterflies, bats and hummingbirds, are increasingly under threat from human activities. But we need them because…

2.  Bees pollinate one in three mouthfuls we eat 
Almost 90% of the world’s wild-flowering plant species depend on animal pollination, along with more than 75% of the world’s food crops and 35% of global agricultural land. Not only do pollinators contribute directly to food security, but they are key to conserving biodiversity. No wonder lots of sci-fi stories involve the end of bees and then the end of the world as we know it.
3. Honeybees live in 50,000-strong colonies 
This number falls to around 10,000 in the winter when the remaining members huddle together and shake to keep warm - a hive therefore resonates all year round. They perfect this ‘waggle dance’ throughout the year to alert one another to the best places to find food. Their social nature (not to mention propensity to dance) could teach us a thing or two about life.
4. Male bees do not sting 
Honeybee workers (female, of course) have a sting in the tail - they protect the nest, sometimes to the death. But don’t let your patriarchy loose just yet, remember the queen bee? She’s in charge of tens of thousands. At least in one animal arena there’s a female CEO.

5. Hives (not to mention honey) are things of wonder 
The geometric columns of hive hexagons are like mini Giant’s Causeways (and also, it should be said, like Blockbusters - remember the stress of the gold run?)

The natural world just can’t be beaten for beauty and inspiration. We love you bees – please keep buzzing.