By Dr. Satyendra Nath Maitra (Ex Associate Professorin Zoology, A.P.C.College,)
From the time immemorial for at least about 10 to 20 million of years Bees have been domiciling the Globe contributing the major role to create a sustainable ecosystem that used to be buzzing and most beautifully decorative Natural scenarios. Man, the self-declared, all mighty stranger arrived in and around Africa somewhere about 0.2 million of years ago only and adapted to the then existing environment along with another almost similar species Homo Neanderthals. For about 0.14 to 0.15 million of years of their arrival man was completely cave dweller thereafter, with solitary habit with purely Nature dependent way. But most fortunately or unfortunately man could realize, within this period that they would be able to conquer the entire creation probably not knowing the exact extensiveness of the Global environment as they were the only possessor of the cause-effect relationship. About 0.06 million years ago a big exodus occurred, for the first time, from Africa to be domiciled in and around Mesopotamia area and ultimately from this human stalk they started to establish various so called Civilizations namely the Maya Civilization, the Indus Valley Civilization, the Egyptian Civilization, Peruvian Civilization and so on within the span of 5 thousand to 3 thousand years BCE. Finally by 1780 final accelerated industrial revolution of Great Britain that was continued up to the half of nineteenth century to whistle the beginning of man’s Independence of Nature due to utter ignorance. As a consequence gradually each and every capable country, especially the Europe and North American countries began to establish huge Industries under the pretext of more modernization which was gradually followed by Asian, African and other countries of the World with no hesitation of releasing all sorts of chemical vapors, the varied types of air suspended particles, unburned hydrocarbons and all other poisons that includes Pesticides, Herbicides, the Larvicides and Miticides completely impregnated the otherwise almighty Environment. For the last about 100 years or so scientists could gauge the degree of assault man has engineered to Environment through the last 14 to 15 hundred years quite injudiciously, as a consequence entire creation, that was created through about 2000 to 3000 million years without man’s interference, is threatened in general and man in particular. Now question arises regarding Bee’s association with man and as the Bees evolved on Earth somewhere 200 to 250 million years ago and happened to be a part of a sustainable ecosystem of the Globe, of course, in the pre-human Environment. Now one has to imagine that an organism adapted for about 180 million years to be competing with man adapted on the Globe only for about 0.2 million of years only. Till date about 25000 species of Bees are present in this Globe of which only 4 species of honey bees and Bumble bees along with some other minor wild Bee families are the constituent part of this huge Bee population so to say. Let us know first what contribution this Bee Kingdome does offer to maintain the sustainable, continued Global Economy, Ecosystem and Biological diversities. Now let us have a surveying look as regard to why the Bees are so important for sustainable human civilization in particular and entire ecosystem of the Globe in general. According to Kleijn et al (2014) in 2010 about $40 billion was contributed by the Bee families of which $15 billion contributed by Honey Bee families only in the way of pollinating flowers of almost all cereals, pulses, nuts, vegetables and almost all other hum edible plant produce. Actually it is very difficult to exactly quantify the contribution of Bees in Global scenario in terms of food production by means of Pollination of Bees alone. Apart from the Pollinated food production, and thereby, active Economic contribution, Bees are very much to establish, develop and maintain various bio diversities for our Planet by means of Pollinating flowers of various non crop trees, such as those of Oak and all other large trees of deep forests as the fruits and seeds of those large trees constitute the food of Birds and Mammals especially. By these ways balanced and sustainable terrestrial ecosystems could develop and spread. By means of indiscriminate pollen transfer among the closely related (in terms of Gene and Chromosome structure) species of trees and plants that had been destined to be randomly evolved and have been evolving as various hybrid vigor which could be adapted with the ever changing environment to create a stable and sustainable forest ecosystem. Beside all those beneficial activities, the Bees collect nectar of various flowers to be swallowed and then to regurgitate in to the hexagonal small chambers of honeycomb that finally to be sealed by wax secreted by the wax gland of worker honey bees. Again Wax collected from honeybee hive important for human economy as wax can produce candles and can also be used for polishing agent for various wooden furniture and used for various other industrial usage that includes Pharmacy. It is also interesting that the hexagonal cells of honey comb have been adopted by man for various engineering devices for constructional purposes. Also during all those activities of honey bee resins from various trees get collected and deposited in the bee hive to be used as anti-bacterial and antifungal agent. Any bee colony can collect 500gm to about one and half kg of resin per year which is very much useful for pharmaceutical works.
Bees are very much essential to be pollination agent which is very essential for crops and fruit production for human use. That means agriculture is very much dependent on pollination by bees. It is very difficult to quantify the bee pollinated produce, cereals and or fruits but it has been estimated that wild bees contribute $3251 per hector per year in USA. According to Kleijn (2914) 2% of wild bee species, the most common types, fertilize about 80% of Bee pollinated crops. Gaining knowledge in these aspects man has started to develop Pollination Industries for experiments in the commercial rearing of Bumble Bees and some solitary bee species for the provision of Pollination service by commercial Bee keepers.
Bees are also responsible to create Biological diversity by gene transfer through pollination among sibling species of plants that creates various new varieties of plants in terms of recombinant genetic diversity as a consequence various landscapes are the result.
In addition Oak trees, Hazel trees and many other trees use Bees as pollinators to produce fruits and seeds which constitute the food for various Birds and Mammals, especially of the Simian groups.
Therefore it can be summarized that Bees constitute one of the very essential elements for the sustenance and progression of so called our civilization. In doing this Bees produce honey the most nutrient substance, produce Wax and Resin which are highly economic being used in various Industrial and Pharmaceutical fields. Bees help to produce about one third of entire agricultural product of the Globe. They are also responsible for creating Biological diversity creating gene manipulation among large trees within sibling species culminating to develop and maintain ecosystem by producing various seed and fruits for Avian and Mammalian, especially the Simian Group of Mammalian, species.
Thus it can emphatically be said that man has to behave towards Bees in general and honeybees in particular with all friendly attitude so that they can grow in number and maintain higher order of lineage otherwise man has to suffer the last battle.
National Honey Board
GreenPeace SOS Bees Project
Pesticide Action Network
American Beekeeping Federation