You probably don't realize it, but this is National Don't Step on a Bee Day, a day to honor those bees around us which contribute so greatly to our way of life.
We know, you were stung once when you were little, maybe more than once. But do you realize all the good that bees do for us?
Just take pollination alone. Bees are the main creatures responsible for pollinating our flowering plants and foods. In fact, they're responsible for 80 percent of insect crop pollination overall. The direct value of honey bee pollination is worth $14.6 billion to U.S. agriculture.
Without bees, it would be an ugly world indeed, without any bright, fragrant flowers to enjoy. Without bees, there would be no fruits to enjoy. Without bees, we would plunge into world famine and all starve to death.
Frighteningly, many scientists say that could happen, with bee populations dwindling to a quarter or even less of their previous numbers. One area where bee populations are down dramatically is Maine. Overapplication of insecticides is blamed for much of the decline.
For eons, bees have enjoyed a special role in civilization. Viking, Celtic and Anglo-Saxon warriors fortified themselves with mead, a honey wine that inspired poets and bards and skalds even to this day. Who knows, without bees, and honey, and hence mead, perhaps we would have never had the poem Beowulf.
While flowers are beautiful, it's the beautiful, beloved buzz of bees that makes them so. And did you realize that the dance that bees do for one another tells other bees how far it is to the next batch of flowers? Who said they were beeing stupid.
There are somewhere between 139,600 and 212,000 beekeepers in the United States, making it a substantial industry, $157 million according to estimates for 2005. Beekeeping is one of those occupations or avocations that takes up little space, except for the hives themselves, which are placed near fields of alfalfa, clover and other flowering plants which bees pollinate and in turn which become a source for honey production.
North Dakota produced 33,670,000 pounds of honey each year with an estimated value of $27,273,000, making it the largest honey-producing state in the nation. California is second with 30 million pounds of honey valued at $25,200,000. Third is South Dakota with 17,380,000 pounds produced with a value of $13,209,000.
Each person in the U.S. eats about 1.29 pounds of honey a year.
Like fine wines, honey has taken on a hoity-toity flair in gourmet circles. While fine wines are produced from special soils, fine honey is produced from bees that have pollinated certain plants.
Bee pollen is the current rage among health food enthusiasts.
"Bee pollen actually contains all of the nutrients you need to live. Certain studies on mice that have been fed exclusively bee pollen and nothing else have not shown any signs of malnourishment. Some of the bee pollen benefits have to do with the fact that bee pollen has high concentrations of the B vitamin complex, and also contains Vitamins A, C, D, and E." (Women's Heath Fitness E-zine).
So the next time you have honey on your toast, or eat a Bit-o-Honey candy, or toast your fellow skalds with a tanker of mead, thank the bees.
Because they did it all.