Importance of Bees
Honey bees are part of the Hymenoptera order which includes bumblebees, solitary bees, wasps, sawflies and ants.
What we can learn from bees
Studying bees adds significantly to the wider education of pupils. For example:
- Bees are pollinators vital to our food chain. One third of the food we eat would not be available but for bees.
- Bees, like other insects, are part of a food chain.
- The social life of the honey bee colony provides a controversial start to thinking about the structure of societies.
- The tools that have evolved on the limbs and mouthparts of bees are neat examples of adaptation and engineering.
- The harvest from honey bees of honey, pollen, wax and propolis has nutritional, craft, manufacturing, and medical applications.
- Pollination by bees is important for genetic sustainability. Genes that have evolved in other animals are important to our future too.
In the UK about 70 crops are dependent on, or benefit from, visits from bees. In addition, bees pollinate the flowers of many plants which become part of feed for farm animals. The economic value of honey bees and bumblebees as pollinators of commercially grown insect-pollinated crops in the UK has been estimated at over £200 million per year.
Bees are in danger of disappearing from our environment. Farming practices continue to disturb natural habitats and forage of solitary and bumblebees at a rate which gives them little chance for re-establishment. The honey bee is under attack from the varroa mite and it is only the treatment and care provided by beekeepers that is keeping colonies alive. Most wild honey bee colonies have died out as a result of this disease.
These factors, coupled with a decline in the number of beekeepers in the UK, have prompted the initiative by the BBKA of the 'Bees in the Curriculum' Schools pack. Attitudes to bees must change and a new generation needs to be educated about the value of bees and the threats to their existence.