Understanding Why Honeybees Are So Important To Agriculture
November 2nd, 2020
You may not think about bees too much — but for farmers and those in agriculture, bees are among the most important insects in the world. In this blog from Community West Bank, we’ll look at the importance of honeybees in agriculture, and some of the challenges facing this population of vital pollinators.
The Importance of Honeybees in Agriculture
Honeybees are natural pollinators and wild hives are essential for biodiversity, and they’re important in agriculture — commercial farmers and the agriculture industry benefit from honeybees in a wide variety of ways.
In fact, keeping bees is a big business — commercial farmers pay millions of dollars each year to “rent” bee colonies on their property to help encourage proper pollination of their crops. Here’s why honeybees are so important.
- Bees are some of the best pollinators in nature — The vast majority of a bee’s life is spent collecting pollen that will be converted into honey. A single bee can visit up to 5,000 flowers in a day — so each bee will pollinate hundreds of thousands of flowers over its lifetime.
- 1/3 of food crops rely on pollinators like bees — The University of Pennsylvania reports that up to a third of all crops require pollination from bees — either directly or indirectly.
- Some foods wouldn’t exist without bees — Primarily, bees are essential for pollinating fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Avocados, blueberries, apples, cucumbers, grapefruit, and almonds are just a few foods that would be missing from store shelves if bees didn’t exist.
Just how valuable are honeybees? One study found that bees contributed up to $24 billion to the agricultural economy in the United States. Those are statistics that are sure to build up some buzz!
Honeybee Populations Continue to Decline Due to Multiple Challenges
Unfortunately, honeybee populations have declined significantly in the United States over the last few decades. There were more than 6 million colonies in 1947, which declined to 3 million by 1990, and now down to about 2.5 million today.
Since 2006, beekeepers have been losing up to 30% of their colonies each winter, compared to historical loss rates of 10-15%. The death rate in the winter of 2018 was the worst on record for honeybees.
The reduction in honeybee colonies is related to a number of complex issues, including encroachment on their natural habitat, high rates of pesticide use, climate change, diseases, and mite infestations, and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), a phenomenon where otherwise healthy bee colonies are abandoned by workers and collapse.
However, many organizations are looking into ways to help preserve bee populations and reduce death rates.
Recently, it was discovered that putting honeybee colonies into artificial “cold storage” units that mimic winter conditions can increase the chances of the colony surviving, particularly if the bees are properly fed and pests like varroa mites are dealt with before the bees are stored in October.
Honeybees Are Essential for Agriculture — And We Need to Help Preserve Them!
The honeybee is responsible for pollinating the food we eat — and populations of agricultural honeybees have never faced more challenging times. So next time you eat a fruit, vegetable, keep this in mind — and do what you can to help bees survive, such as minimizing your personal use of pesticides, planting bee-friendly plants in your yard, and educating yourself on the threats that face honeybees, and how you can ask your local, state, and national representatives to help.
We Are Only a Phone Call Away
Community West Bank fulfills the financing needs of our agricultural and agribusiness clients with Farmer Mac mortgage loans for land acquisition, loans to refinance existing debt and financing for capital improvements.
For financing questions, please contact Laura Maffei to get started. Call her at (805) 692 - 4394 or (209) 679 — 9244, or send an email to LMaffei@CommunityWestBank.com.