If you stop and think a minute, we all should really give the honey bee more credit. I think we take for granted the little buzzy friends that help put food on our tables, and I don't just mean honey. Bees actually pollinate our fruit trees, many of our veggie crops and even some field crops like alfalfa and sunflowers. I've read as much as 1/3 of the world's food crops are dependent on bee pollination. And guess what? Bees are apparently disappearing. EEK!
The bottom line is, bee populations are decreasing due to many different environmental and disease factors, and human populations and food needs are as always, increasing. DOUBLE EEK!
I started thinking more about bees a few years ago when I stumbled upon an ad for a Haagen Dazs ice cream flavor called 'Vanilla Honey Bee'. Who knew one of my favorite snacks could be so educational? I'm not sure if you can still find this ice cream flavor anymore, but Haagen Dazs has a website you should definitely check out: http://www.helpthehoneybees.com/. At first I was skeptical about finding reputable info on an ice cream website, of all places, but apparently Haagen Dazs is partnering with reputable bee research facilities at Penn State University and UC-Davis to spread the word about bee troubles. I think this website does a wonderful marketing job of getting info out to the general public about the problems honeybees are facing such as Colony Collapse Disorder. Haagen Dazs' livelihood depends on being able to access fresh fruit and nut ingredients that bees work to produce, so it totally makes sense. I DO want to help the honey bees! Now I love ice cream, AND I love honey bees. Thanks Haagen Dazs!
Closer to home, the University of Minnesota has it's own bee research facility. Check out http://www.extension.umn.edu/honeybees/ for more info. The U offers a beekeeping short course for budding beekeepers each spring on a weekend in March. Alas, I have missed the boat this year and didn't sign up for the class, but I hope to next year. In the meantime, I have ordered and read a great beekeeping manual and found a great informative research article on their site which even includes some ideas on how to improve our landscapes to make them bee-friendly:
If you still aren't sold on how important and totally cool honey bees are, check out this photo from the 2010 MN State Fair. The honey display in the Horticulture building was probably the coolest and most beautiful thing I saw at the fair last year, well, besides my brownie sundae w/ ICE CREAM!: