The Diverse Family of Bees
When we think of bees, the honeybee, Apis mellifera, is often the first species that comes to mind. However, the world of bees is much more diverse and colorful than that. In Italy alone, there are over 1,000 species of Apoidea, the superfamily that includes all bees. Many of these species do not produce honey, and they often go unnoticed, living quietly away from the limelight. These lesser-known species come in various sizes, shapes, and colors, each playing its own unique role in the ecosystem. From solitary bees to social ones, from bumblebees to carpenter bees, the bee world is rich with variety. As diverse as they are, all bees share one thing in common: they are essential biodiversity.
The Importance of Bees for the Ecosystem
Bees are not only fascinating creatures, but they are also vital for the health of our ecosystem. One of the most critical roles they play is that of pollinators. By transferring pollen from one flower to another, bees help plants to reproduce, which in turn produces seeds and fruits. This process supports the growth of plants and trees, ensuring a diverse and healthy environment. Bees also play a crucial role in our food supply. An estimated one-third of the food we consume relies on pollination, primarily by bees. Without them, many fruits, vegetables, and nuts would become scarce, and our diets would be less varied and nutritious. Additionally, pollination by bees contributes to healthy soil and cleaner air, as the plants they help propagate absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. Bees are, therefore, a key species for the health of our planet and the survival of many other species, including humans.
Paradox of Honeybee Survival
While honeybees are not directly at risk of extinction, owing to the protective measures taken by humans, there's an underlying concern that demands attention. The increasing mortality rates among these bees and the escalating challenges faced by beekeepers sound a warning bell not just for honeybees but for the myriad of lesser-known bee species. This rise in mortality underscores a pivotal point: our focus shouldn't be solely on finding remedies for Apis mellifera, the honeybee, but on a more holistic approach. We need to develop methodologies to analyze and counteract the pervasive loss of biodiversity.
Furthermore, when it comes to species teetering on the brink of extinction, our understanding is often clouded by a lack of data. Many bee species remain elusive to tracking, leaving us uncertain of their current status – whether they are thriving, merely surviving, or have sadly become extinct.
The Unintended Consequences of Boosting Honeybee Colonies
In recent years, there has been a growing trend of increasing honeybee colonies to protect biodiversity. However, this approach may have unintended consequences. Like any other species, honeybees need to be properly maintained, protected, and managed. If we were to take 10,000 bears and place them in Trentino, they would surely cause damage. The same principle applies to beekeeping. We must never exploit these insects excessively. Yet, the commercial appeal of honey may tempt us to do so. This is leading to an unintended problem, particularly in cities where "urban beehives" are becoming popular, resulting in an overcrowding of honeybees and a decline in other bee species.
Such overpopulation of honeybees can have negative effects on local ecosystems, reducing biodiversity and putting added pressure on resources. It can also exacerbate competition for nectar and pollen, making it harder for other pollinators to survive.
What 3Bee is doing to protect bees?
Since its founding, 3Bee has consistently discouraged the use of the term "Save the Bees," as it can be misleading. Instead, 3Bee has put into action a holistic methodology to ramp up bee protection on all fronts:
Conduct a comprehensive analysis of all honeybees in Europe through extensive monitoring. The aim is to identify areas of overpopulation, pinpoint regions with a scarcity of biodiversity, and determine where intervention is needed.
Establish the most extensive ecological corridor for pollinators in Europe, creating sanctuaries in areas where biodiversity is dwindling.
Put an end to practices of mass pollination.
Cease intensive agricultural practices that result in the slaughter of bees and the destruction of biodiversity.
By choosing a 3Bee project:
You support responsible beekeeping You protect biodiversity and promote regenerative practices You study all bees found in nature You initiate research projects in Europe on pollinators