Bees — what are we without them?

Bees — what are we without them?

Sugarsweet crystals

What can be seen here is probably the first thing that comes to mind when we think of bees — honey! Here the sugar crystals have been magnified 100 times with the help of a polarized light. For one jar of honey, bees have to visit between 450,000 and 3 million flowers.

Bees — what are we without them?

Visibly empty

Many people don't realise that honey is just a fraction of the food bees help produce. The above photo shows what a supermarket would look like if bees didn't exist. That amounted to 60% of the items on the shelves. Various spices, marinades, dairy products, and even scented toilet paper, are all possible in part thanks to the efforts of bees.

Bees — what are we without them?

#Notallbees

Not all bees are the same. A wild bee, for example, does not produce honey but it's a key pollinator. It's also particularly at risk of extinction. Bumble bees are also among the wild bee species. Honey bees, on the other hand, have less to worry about because they are domesticated and highly managed for agricultural use, with their hives kept by humans.

Bees — what are we without them?

An apple a day no more

Of course there are other pollinators besides bees — butterflies, flies and birds, for example. But about a third of our fruit and vegetables rely on pollination by bees. These include apples, pears, strawberries and cucumbers. And we would all be reluctant to do without them, wouldn't we?

Bees — what are we without them?

Beeswax is vital to our food industry

How is it possible for our chocolate, sweets, fruit and vegetables to look so beautiful? Bees, of course. Or, more specifically, E901 — beeswax. It gives chocolate its beautiful shine and makes vegetables look waxed and appetizing, as well as ensuring they retain moisture and stay fresh. It's also used as a glazing and separating agent for candy so that gummy bears don't all stick together.

Bees — what are we without them?

No more cocoa, either

And about chocolate — without bees, there wouldn't be much of it. Bees are responsible for pollinating a lot of cocoa. If it came to it, the only option could be to pollinate by hand, which would be extremely labor-intensive and much less efficient. The same goes for nuts, by the way.

Bees — what are we without them?

Coffee kicks for everyone

It's not just humans that like coffee. Bees do too, as an experiment with coffee-free and coffee-infused sugar water has shown. At the same time, bees do the work to pollinate our coffee beans, to maintain our (hopefully) never ending supply of caffeine.

Bees — what are we without them?

A toast to our bees!

By now it's clear how much we benefit from the hard work of bees and how different our lives would be without them. But we shouldn't just pay tribute to them on World Bee Day. Appreciating bees means protecting them. The most restrained use of pesticides helps. Insect boxes also provide safety, nesting and hiberation. And flowers in a balcony box or fruit trees outside are a safe source of food.

A world without bees — can you imagine? Ony then, when our supermarket shelves are empty and our lives no longer sweet in quite the same way, might people realize just how dependent we are on these industrious insects.

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Science in Germany