Keeping bees holds intrigue and interest for many, but the practice of beekeeping is more than just a pastime: it is becoming vital. Honeybee numbers have dwindled over the last five decades. Their decline has been variously attributed to disease, exposure to pesticides, climate change, and a mono-crop approach to agriculture. Regardless of the causes, the decline of the honeybee – officially called Colony Collapse disorder, or CCD – has the potential to affect humanity profoundly.

Why Bees Are Important

Of course, bees provide honey; but it is their role as pollinator that is so crucial to America’s food supply. They pollinate more than three quarters of our flowering crops. If flowers are not pollinated, they will not bear fruit. That means that honey bees are responsible for wild and domestic apples, pears, strawberries, oranges, cucumbers, blueberries, broccoli, almonds, and much more.

The enormously economical crop soybeans is pollinated largely by honeybees. Bees also pollinate alfalfa, a crop that farmers use to feed beef and dairy cattle. So honeybees have an effect on our steaks, burgers, cheese, milk, and other animal products. It has been said that, without bees, humans would have to survive on bread and water. And there would be no honey for the bread!

Don’t forget your clothes. About 80 percent of all cotton crops are pollinated by honeybees. It’s also worth noting that cotton is one of the most heavily-sprayed crops with regard to pesticide. You can help by buying organic cotton.

Honey is a very important bee product. It is very nutritious, containing at least 75 active compounds in its raw, unfiltered state. It has lots of vitamins, antibacterial action, and is even an exceptional treatment for burns. A spoonful of honey will quieten a night-time cough.

Even bee venom – that substance that allergic individuals greatly fear – has its benefits. It has been used to relieve the pain of arthritis. And venom is necessary for the development of antivenin.

In answer to this alarming trend, more and more people are stepping up to help the bees by setting up beekeeping in their yards. If you are unable to take that big a step, you can help by planting bee-friendly, flowering plants, trees and shrubs such as oregano, purple coneflower, bee balm, strawberries, squash, boxwood, and butterfly bush. You can plant fruit trees as well. Do not use chemical pesticides or fungicides on your bee-friendly plants, or even in your yard at all.