In early July, Russian media reported that in dozens of regions of the Russian Federation, bees are massively dying . And then they remembered that Albert Einstein supposedly predicted the extinction of humanity within four years after the disappearance of bees. “Around the World” tells how important the bees are for us, and understands whether Einstein said something like that.
Bees are responsible for pollinating about a third of the plants we eat.
That is, bees carry pollen between male and female flowers of plants: this is necessary so that some plants can produce seeds and fruits.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, more than 90 types of crops, including different types of nuts, berries and vegetables, require pollination by insects.
In the United States, the number of beehives today is 2.5 million, although in the 1940s there were 6 million; simultaneously, over the past half century, the production of crops pollinated by bees has quadrupled, and the number of bees per hectare of fields has decreased by 90%.
What do farmers do?
There are two practical solutions: you can pollinate plants either manually, as, for example, has been done for several decades in some provinces of China (in particular, with fruit trees) due to the abundance of insecticides in the gardens and the lack of natural pollinators, or use the services of touring bees, which beekeepers transport in hives from place to place and release over gardens and fields when plants requiring pollination bloom there..
Are all plants in danger? Not at all: say, corn, potatoes and cabbage are wonderful without pollinators. But apples and pears, melons and watermelons, berries without bees will have a very hard time.
Bees appeared about 100 million years ago, and people began to breed them 4,500 years ago
At least, it is precisely this age, according to scientists, that an insect of the species Melittosphex burmensis discovered in a piece of amber from Myanmar has several years ago , which has the characteristics of modern bees. It was previously believed that the first bees capable of storing plant nectar in the form of honey in the hives to feed it – the hive – the inhabitants in a hungry year (and not you and me at all – there was no man then), and at the same time transfer pollen from one plant to another and so pollinate them, appeared about 50 million years ago – about the same time as primates.
The first attempts to domesticate wild honey bees were made, apparently, in Ancient Egypt 3500 years before the birth of Christ: images of a man with a hole (to calm the bees) were preserved near the hive, the bees themselves and the vessels with honey.
The oldest traces of honey as a product used by humans date back to the 5th millennium BC: they were discovered in a burial site in the territory of modern Georgia in 2003. Before that, the oldest honey found was the one found in the burial of the Egyptian pharaoh, dating from the 3rd millennium BC. e.
The beneficial properties of honey were also noted in ancient Indian texts 4000 years ago, and beekeeping was very developed in ancient Greece.
We use several bee products at once.
Unlike, for example, silkworms, bees make several useful products at once: in addition to honey, they produce and store wax, propolis, bee bread and royal jelly.
By honey, we usually mean the nectar of plants collected from flowers and partially digested in the goiter of a honey bee, sweet and viscous. However, it may have a different origin: the bees produce, among other things, the so-called honeydew honey, collecting the sweet secretions of aphids and other insects, and honey dew – sugar exudate juice on the leaves of some plants and on spruce needles.
Honey is made so that the entire colony, especially the offspring, can eat it when other sources of food are unavailable. However, due to the composition of honeydew honey, bees resort to it as a means of nutrition only as a last resort, since with constant use it is harmful to the inhabitants of the hive. But ordinary honey is useful and pleasant and, moreover, does not deteriorate for many years or even centuries, since microorganisms, mold and everything else do not live in it, which leads to spoilage of products.
Wax is produced by special glands of honey bees and is used in the hive for the construction of honeycombs.
Propolis, a resinous substance that bees make from the secretions of the spring buds of trees, they use to cover cracks, disinfect honeycomb cells and isolate foreign objects. It consists of more than 200 compounds, almost all trace elements that are necessary for humans, amino acids, flavanoids. It is not surprising that we also use it: propolis, according to some reports, has antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulating, cardioprotective and almost anti-cancer properties.
The fourth product, bee bread, is pollen from flowers that the bees visited to collect honey. It is glued by secretions of the glands of bees and hides in a honeycomb under a layer of honey. This produces a valuable protein feed, which is essential for bees in the spring. And for people to increase the number of red blood cells, reticulocytes and hemoglobin in the blood. However, official medicine urges to use this product with caution, since it, unlike honey, is susceptible to damage by fungi and bacteria, can contain substances harmful to humans and cause allergies – this is plant pollen. Perga is not a cure.
Finally, royal jelly is a food for queen bees throughout their lives. It is produced by the maxillary gland of nurse bees, and people use it in cosmetics, dietary supplements and research.
One bee produces only 1/12 teaspoon of honey throughout life.
That is about 0.4 ml. But a whole healthy (in the sense of not being affected by the disease) hive with 20-50 thousand inhabitants per year can produce from 10 to 30 kg of honey, depending on a number of factors. At the same time, each of the worker bees has to work hard for this: to get 1 kg of honey, they, according to some estimates, need to collect nectar from 4 million flowers and fly 150,000 km each. This is not surprising when you consider that one of the bees two stomachs, designed specifically for storing and processing nectar, contains only about 40 mg of nectar (about half its own weight), and to fill it, the bee needs to fly around a thousand flowers, which takes about an hour.
Who gets all this? If we are talking about domesticated bees, then we are with you. At the end of the warm season, beekeepers open the hives and take a significant part of the honey. But not all, a good beekeeper leaves a certain amount for the hive (how much depends on the length of the winter and the size of the colony) or offers a replacement: crystalline sugar or syrup.
Even bee venom can be beneficial.
But in reasonable quantities and if the consumer has no allergies. Allergic reactions to bee venom are observed in 0.52.0% of people, and such reactions up to anaphylactic shock can occur even after one sting. But in order for you to be weaned (it was weaned, not bitten – the difference is fundamental!), You need to make some efforts.
A bee buzzing busily over flowers is not inclined to attack a person unless he is rude or sloppy with it. Another thing is if he, or any other stranger, begins to threaten the colony – for example, he climbs into the hive without first calming the inhabitants with smoke from a special device – a smoker, or approaches, spreading the smell around him (perfume, alcohol, gasoline, etc.). ), attracting the attention of bees and marking its source as dangerous.
Then the bees will attack the alien and stick their stings into it from 1.5 to 3.0 mm long. A sting of a bee is notched if inserted into a dense material, for example, into the skin of a mammal, it can get stuck in it and escape from the body of the bee along with part of the poisonous apparatus, due to which the bee soon dies. A complex composition of chemicals enters the blood of the stung, leading to swelling, soreness, and even an increase in the temperature of the place around the wound.
A little bit of poison arrives – each bee has only 0.15-0.30 mg in stock, and she does not plan to spend it all for one sting. Another thing is if the sting remains in the skin along with part of the apparatus and is not controlled by the bee, and the poison enters the bloodstream. That is why the sting needs to quickly remove their wounds. A serious threat to health and life occurs when 2.8 mg of poison per kilogram of stung weight enters the human body. For a person weighing, say, 60 kg to receive the deadly 168 mg of bee venom, they must sting him at least 600 times. Then there is a severe damage to the body, in particular the kidneys, which threatens life.
What is the benefit of bee venom? It is believed that it increases hemoglobin and reduces cholesterol, viscosity and blood coagulability, dilates blood vessels, increases blood flow to a diseased organ, relieves pain, improves overall tone. At least, this was believed in ancient Egypt. And today there are many doctors and adherents of alternative medicine, especially in Southeast Asia (in the USSR, the effectiveness of apitoxin therapy, that is, treatment with bee venom, was approved at the level of the Union Ministry of Health), recommending treatment with bee venom and drugs from it, in particular for arthritis, Herpes zoster, multiple sclerosis, gout, burns, wounds and infections. However, Western evidence-based medicine is skeptical.
Bees can be useful not only in pollination and production of goodies
The bee colonies are extremely interestingly organized, and the bees themselves are worthy of careful study as intelligent and effective creatures. So, recent studies have shown that bees can recognize people’s faces , count , and also build routes and organize storage of stocks in the most effective way possible and much more. A careful study of bees can bring us a lot of benefits and help in solving a wide range of scientific problems.
And it is possible with their help to solve practical problems that are not related to agriculture. For example, experiments were first conducted in the United States and then in Croatia to train bees to search for mines. And in the UK, experts from the University of London suggested that studying how bees and other pollinating insects plan their travels between a nest and flowers (among other things, they do not collect nectar too close to the nest so as not to attract predators and parasites to it), can help in the search for serial killers: they do not commit crimes inside a certain buffer zone around their home and at the same time, when hunting, they take into account many factors. Watching the bees, you can try to understand how it is they – and the killers – who think.