honey bees flying

Consider this: According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, 75 percent of the world’s food crops — from almonds to cherries and apples to broccoli — depend at least partly on pollinators like bees. Chances are that you have bees to thank for your favorite snack.

Bees also enable our modern way of life. In fact, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of bees: we rely on their contributions for more than you may realize.

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Why Are Bees Important to Your Health?

Bees don’t just make honey, an incredible substance in itself. They also pollinate hundreds of fruit and vegetable plants, including those that produce cranberries, melons, broccoli, blueberries, and almonds, according to the American Beekeeping Federation.

Eating a diet rich in produce in various colors provides nutrients that allow your body to absorb and make use of vitamins and minerals. Getting a range of vitamins and minerals is necessary for cell function and helps protect against heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.

The Importance of Bees to Modern Life

Believe it or not, pollinators like bees do more than provide plenty of variety in your diet. They also facilitate the production of:

  • Biofuels, like canola and palm oil
  • Textiles, like cotton
  • Plant-based medicines
  • Construction materials
  • Feed for both livestock and wild animals

Without bees, life as we know it wouldn’t exist.

Declining Bee Populations

The decline in bee populations has been making headlines. Factors such as global warming, intensive agriculture, pesticides, and pollution threaten their very survival. According to FAO, pollinators are declining worldwide. If bee populations continue to plummet at current rates, experts warn of rising grocery costs and potential food shortages.

Food scarcity may sound dramatic. It can be argued that humans could make do with foods that don’t rely on pollinators — like rice and wheat — for many years before reaching a global hunger reaches a crisis stage. But human health would suffer if we were to lose the variety of crops bees allow us to eat.

How You Can Help

You can make an impact simply by planting and nurturing a pollinator-friendly garden in your own backyard.

To take it a step further, support local beekeepers and sustainable agriculture in your community. A team from UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital is doing just that in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood, investing in the environment and the health of their region by cultivating beehives. With the help of local beekeepers, the colonies have produced more than just honey; they’re generating positive buzz among local residents and the health care community.

 

Sources
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Pollinators Vital to Our Food Supply Under Threat. American Beekeeping Federation. Honey Bees are Pollinators.