Where does our food Bee-gin?

We all rely on food to keep us going. It’s an essential part of our lives. More than that, it is one of the ENJOYABLE parts of our lives. We don’t just need food to keep us ticking over on a day-to-day basis; we use food as a reason to gather socially, as a way to relax, to romance and to cheer us up. Food isn’t just something to eat; it is important to society, culture and on a personal level. But where does our food really come from, and who or what do we have to thank for its bountiful presence on our supermarket shelves?

Well, my guess is the first thing that’s popped into your head is a picturesque field of wheat, or maybe an orchard, possibly a farmer? However, I would also guess that very few people have bees as the first thing that jumped to mind!  I’d like you to imagine a world where chocolate is a mere memory, where fruits, such as apples, are a myth and many vegetables are a sought after commodity. This could be the extreme case for a world without bees. OK, so this may be a slight exaggeration, but it really gets you thinking about why the phrase ‘busy bees’ was coined.

Most of the foods you know and love, particularly fruits, are there due to the hard work of the humble bumblebee. If we were to live in a world where those crops, dependent mainly on bee pollination, were to disappear, along with the bees, then we may well be faced with a somewhat unappetising diet. Thankfully, this isn’t the case at the moment and we can still enjoy the freedom of choice in our cuisine!

Many of the most loved foods that we use on a weekly basis, such as tomato, onion, carrot and, most importantly, tea, are strongly reliant on bees to pollinate them. So maybe a BIG thank you to the humble bee is in order for the dishes we all know and love. What’s that I hear you say? You’ve never liked savoury stuff that much? Maybe raspberries, blueberries, cherries, peaches and passion fruit are more your thing? These are all reliant on bee pollination too. Well, I’ll go out on a limb and say smoothies would be pretty boring without the input of bees!

So, wouldn’t it be a shame to take for granted all the variety of foods that we have, and not give a second thought to that quiet, hard worker the bee?! I, for one, won’t be taking my, what could seem mundane, meals for granted any longer, as it could be something far less appetising on my plate if it weren’t for the hard work of these tough little pollinators! But how can we return the favour to the humble bee? Well, it’s really very simple; just plant a few different flowers in your garden, or, if you don’t have the time, cut the grass less or put a bee box in your garden. All these small changes provide bees with the variety of food they need, and the shelter they require whilst also keeping the variety of food that we enjoy on our supermarket shelves!

Emma Drabble


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