Bees’ contribution in safeguarding biodiversity


Dr Banarsi Lal & Dr Devinder Sharma

A small creature ‘Bee’ contributes immensely for safeguarding biodiversity. Despite being of a small size, it provides numerous benefits to mankind, which common person must not be aware of. As per different studies, it has been observed that there are about 20,000 different species of bees in the world. Bees live in colonies and in each colony there are three types of bees namely Queen, Worker and Drone. Drones are males. Both Worker and Queen are females but only the Queen can reproduce. Workers clean the hive, collect pollens and nectar and take care of off-springs. The Drones copulate with the Queen, who lays eggs.
There are different types of bees in the world such as the honey bees, the bumble bees, the leaf cutter and mason bees, the digger and carpenter bees and mining bees. Honey bees are called as social bees. They live in big colonies of about 50,000-60,000 workers. There are about 10 types of honey bees in the world. They are helpful for crop pollination and produce honey and food for us.
Bumble bees are excellent pollinators and have small colonies ranging about 50-400 workers. Their furry body reduces their efficiency for pollination. Leaf cutter and mason bees are called buzz bees .They are also called as the solitary bees.
Generally a single female mason bee constructs a nest alone and provides for egg cells. Digger and carpenter bees have good quality for pollination. They make their nests in the soil. Their body is up to 3 cm long and hairy. Mining bees are huge in their number consisting of thousands types of bees.
They are also solitary in nature and female bees make nests quite close to each other.
Pollination is a fundamental process for the survival of our ecosystem. We all depend on the pollinators. Three out of four crops across the globe produce food for the mankind and these crops depend on the pollinators. There are different types of pollinators in the world such as butterflies, birds and bats. But the popular ones are the bees. Bees are helpful to pollinate the agricultural crops and wildflowers. It is estimated that they pollinate about 90 per cent of flowering plants and 70 per cent of world’s main crops.
Without bees, pollination would become difficult. They have great importance especially in the agricultural sector as they help in food production and thus generate the monetary funds.
They also produce honey thus generate more income and employment in the society. Honey is very important and most beneficial product produced by bees. Honey has multi-uses. Bee-wax is the second most hive product. It is useful to make candles, wood, leather polishes and ingredients in artists’ products and in cosmetics. It is also used as the drug carrier, binding agent and substance in the time releasing mechanism. Thus, bees play a great role in food and medicines production and thus have great economic benefits. The crops pollinated by the honey bees provide food to the mankind. Polinators are helpful to reproduce the plants. They are helpful not only to produce the food but also they conserve the biodiversity. If the population of pollinators will decline then nutritious crops such as fruits, vegetables and nut crops may be substituted by staple crops such as rice, corn and potatoes, resulting in an imbalanced diet.
Union Territory of J&K has huge potential for beekeeping. It is considered as one of the most important and suitable places for beekeeping in India. Beekeeping has been an age-old tradition in J&K and is practiced from generation to generation. With commercial beekeeping some new avenues of income and employment can be generated in J&K, especially for rural youth. Unemployed youth of J&K can start entrepreneurship in beekeeping.
Pollination centres can be established and beehives can be provided to the unemployed youths on subsidy basis to promote the beekeeping. Beekeeping can prove a promising prospect in J&K. Moreover, beekeeping can boost the horticultural sector in J&K as the fruit crops production can be increased.
Unemployment problem in J&K can be solved through commercial beekeeping up to some extent. J&K has the potential to produce the organic honey and farmers can fetch more money by producing the organic honey. Some specified marketing channels are needed to promote sale of honey.
In present era, bees lives are endangered due to number of reasons such as excessive use of pesticides, habitat loss and anthropogenic reasons. It has been observed that the different species of bees are declining across the globe.
It means that they are at risk. Unfortunately lakhs of bees die every year, resulting a great loss to human beings. Their population is affected by the number of reasons. Effective remedial measures are needed to increase their population. Climate change is the cause of various environmental issues.
The factors such as extreme precipitation, temperature, increased drought, frost etc. effect bees’ health.
Flowerless or less flowering in gardens also affect their numbering. There is a need to make some strenuous efforts to enhance their population. Land use change, invasive insects, excessive use of pesticides and mono-cropping practices have posed a serious threat on the bees’ population. Boosting the bees’ population can boost the crops yield. Sustainable agriculture can reduce the risk to the bees. There is dire need to promote the diversified and eco-friendly agriculture to minimize the risk to the pollinators. Safeguarding bees can safeguard the biodiversity. Present species of bees are in extinction and are in higher risk than the normal rate. There is need to regularly monitor the bees population decline, causes of reduction and impact on the pollination. The taxonomic information on pollinators needs to be addressed. Economic value of pollination by the bees needs to be studied.
Every year World Bee Day is celebrated on 20th of May. The theme of this year World Bee Day was ‘Bee engaged: Build Back Better for Bees’. This day is celebrated to raise awareness among the masses about the threats to pollinators like bees by human activities. This day was approved by the UN in December, 2017. On this date, the pioneer of modern beekeeping and one of the greatest authority on subject of bees, Anton Jansa was born in 1734 in Slovenia.
This day was first celebrated in May, 2018 and this year, it was 4th observance of the event.
The purpose of celebration of this day is to acknowledge role of bees and other pollinators for the ecosystem.
The United Nation focused upon threats of protection posed by the COVID-19 to bees and other pollinators. This year due to COVID-19 pandemic, the day was commemorated by organising various programmes through virtual mode. Conservation and restoration of different species of bees need to be promoted.
We need to take care of the bees and other pollinators as it is like fight against the hunger. Capacity building on commercial beekeeping should be intensified among the farmers.
In this case, KVKs can play crucial role in imparting the skills among the farmers.
We should have different types of plants which give flowers in different times of the year. We should purchase honey from farmers to promote them.
We need to stress on organic farming and avoid use of agro-chemicals so that bees ‘population can be increased. Forest ecosystem should be sustained.
We need to generate more and more awareness among the masses on bees’ protection as decline in their population may affect our lives. We need to create a friendly environment for bees.
(The writers are Head, KVK Reasi and Asstt Professor, SKUAST-J).