A Short History of Bees

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As we all know, bees and other insects play an important role in the pollination processes for many different plant species. Bees, however, are more crucial to this process and it is said that without bees the entire existence of the world could be threatened.

Bees collect nectar and pollen to provide food for their hive. When a bee lands on a flower to collect the pollen and nectar a lot more happens than people may think. During this process, pollen from the male reproductive organ of the flower, better known as the stamen, rubs onto the bees fur. Bees visit many different flowers while collecting nectar and pollen, but they tend to focus on one species at a time. As the bee lands on the next flower, the pollen from its fur can transfer to the female reproductive organ, or the pistil, and fertilization becomes a possibility. Bees can also transfer the pollen onto the same flower and that contributes to fertilization as well. Plants rely on this fertilization process in order to reproduce. Over time they have found different ways to become more attractive to bees. Some of these include the brightening of colors, providing certain scents, and becoming more flat and tubular to attract them. Overtime this adaptation has proven to be successful. Although plants and flowers can reproduce without the help of bees, the process is slower. A detrimental effect of extinction or endangerment is a possibility for many plants without the extra help from bees and other insects.

Bees pollinate more than one-sixth of the flowering plant species, and more than four hundred agricultural plant species. As a society the agricultural industry relies on bees and other pollinating insects for pollinating one-third of what we eat (Tucker). There are over 25,000 bee species in the world, and the US has over 4,000 (Tucker). The most well known species of bees are the honey-bee, carpenter bee, and bumblebee, and each species contributes to pollination. Bees are extremely important to our agricultural business, but also keep the flowers we see everyday blooming. Pollinating flowers creates habitats for other animal species and insects (Tucker). They are extremely economically important, but also keep our world aesthetically pleasing.

Among today’s society, the value of honey cannot be appreciated nearly to the scale that it was upon its initial discovery due to the presence of junk food and artificial sugars. However, “honey is as old as history itself” (“Early Honey History”), and has a very deep history with humans. Evidence suggests that humans have been harvesting honey as far back as 8,000 years, and people did not just use it for food. Additionally it was used for bathing, medicinal purposes, and was an item of trade.

To early societies, honey was unlike anything they had ever seen before, it was incredibly sweet and had a good tolerance for storage. The discovery of honey was as groundbreaking as fire. (About Bees). The hunt for honey was one that inflicted tremendous pain, but well worth it in the end. The Egyptians are believed to have been the first known beekeepers with the first artificial beehives having been created sometime around 4,000 B.C. These beehives consisted of unbaked hardened mud pots, and evolved with time among different societies including the Greeks who modified the Egyptian design by crafting baked terra cotta pots and referred to the honey as “the nectar of the gods” (“Background to Bees”). Other designs include hollowed out logs suspended from trees (currently used in Africa), woven cylinders, and rectangular boxes constructed from wood. All these designs have the same traits in mind, a long low cavity with a small entrance on one end and a door at the other.

Bees have a very interesting history and most humans are unaware of how sophisticated their species truly is. Bees are estimated to have been around for over 100 million years, with their first recording being in Myanmar. There are roughly 20,000 different species of bees and they didn’t always use to be considered vegetarians. The earlier species of bees were more like wasps and fed on other insects rather than nectar and pollen. In Ancient times, honey was the most important sweetener for food and alcoholic drinks, it was so important that parents began to name their children after bees. (About Bees). The start of modern beekeeping can be pinpointed to a man named Lorenzo Langstroth. By discovering that bees would keep a small pathway inside of hives, he was able to develop hives with movable frames of comb.

“If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.” – E.O. Wilson (“The Beguiling History of Bees”)

References

“Bees, Beekeeping, and Honey – Early Honey History.” Heathmont Honey, 5 March 2017. http://www.heathmonthoney.com.au/bees/HoneyHistory.htm.

“Bees, Beekeeping, and Honey – Background to Bees.” Heathmont Honey, 5 March 2017. http://www.heathmonthoney.com.au/bees/HoneyHistory.htm.

Goulson, Dave. “The Beguiling History of Bees.” Scientific American. N.p., 25 Apr. 2014. Web. 5 Mar. 2017. <https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-beguiling-history-of-bees-excerpt/>.

“The Importance of Bees”. Pollination, 5 March 2017.

http://www.bees.techno-science.ca/english/bees/pollination/default.php

Tucker, Jessica. “Why Bees Are Important to Our Planet.” One Green Planet. One Green Planet, 17 June 2014. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.

Omlet. “Homepage.” About Bees | Bees | Guide | Omlet US. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.

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One thought on “A Short History of Bees

  1. randypeppler March 13, 2017 / 2:02 pm

    This is a nice overview. I appreciated learning about how bees pollinate plants and the history dating to the Egyptians. I love the visual – where is it from? And I feel like you could also have provided a reference for the last statement in the opening paragraph, and one for the second paragraph. Pretty good though.

    Like

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