World Bee Day!

World Bee Day!

A world without bees would be a world without coffee!

When you grind your beans in the morning and fill the house with the warm, rich roasted smell of coffee for your morning drop. I am pretty sure you do not realise that this would not be possible if it wasn’t for that little insect the bee. A world without bees would mean a world without coffee as more than 40% of all coffee production relies on this incredibly important little insect. And so today, on World Bee day, we would like to give you an understanding of why they are so important.  

Why are bees important?  

Bees are no. 1 pollinators. What’s a pollinator you ask? Well for plants to reproduce they require the female procreation material to get in touch with male procreation material. As we know, plants can't move, so they need helpers. This can be the wind, carrying pollen through the air, which is a little bit like throwing mud at the wall and hoping for something to stick. A better option is for those helpers to be pollinating insects and/or birds. These little helpers are attracted by the nectar offered up in the flowers of plants. They take their fill moving from flower to flower and in doing so transfer the procreation material from plant to plant. Curious? Read more about pollination and it’s vital role on BEES4LIFE here; What is pollination. 

So what has this got to do with coffee? 

You may know that the most widely used coffee plants are Arabica (Coffea arabica) and Robusta (Coffea canephora).  

Arabica plants are known as highland coffee plants and found above 1.200 – 1.5000 meters altitude. They are self-fertilizing and usually are a wind-pollinated plant species. However, when bees are around Arabica plants, the coffee fruit harvest increases up to 16%! Think about it that is 16% more coffee for you!  

On the other hand Robusta plants are lowland coffee plants and makes up to40% of the world’s coffee production. As they are lowland they are used to an environment with a strong biodiversity. They are self-sterile and depend entirely on cross pollination. In short, they need bees! 

What is cross pollination? 

Cross pollination plants cannot fertilise with their own pollen – this is known as self-sterile. They need to fertilise with the pollen of other plants. Which is why bees and other pollinators are crucial to the process as they help to pollinate the world’s coffee.  

This is why a world without bees would mean a world without coffee, so if you love coffee you really should love bees! 

How can coffee farms help the bees?  

As we know most of the coffee that we drink comes from farms. Due to this many are facing the same issues that monoculture farms are facing. Provided there is no pesticide use during the flowering season the farm is a hive of activity. However as soon as flowering season is over the farm becomes a desert for bees and the other pollinators and this is where there are issues.  

We now know that the presence of bees on a farm can boost coffee production up to 40%!* So ensuring bees and other pollinators can live a happy life on the farms is essential to production of coffee.  

What can farmers do to attract bees? 

There are multiple things farmers can do to ensure they attract the bees but most importantly to ensure that they can survive all year round.  

  • Inter-cropping: mixing up coffee trees with other types of tress. More biodiversity means more nectar sources for pollinators and also reduces the farm to pests 
  • Avoid synthetic pesticides and herbicides 
  • Keeping parts of the farm as untouched forest/garden where pollinators and wildlife can retreat.  
  • Embrace the weed and then use them as organic matter through the chop and drop method. Meanwhile the bees having a secondary source of nectar through the flowering weeds.  

The ideal is changing farmers thinking to a more holistic way of farming similar to the concepts in regenerative farming, permaculture or restorative farming. 

So when you grab that coffee tomorrow morning spare a thought for the bees and maybe leave those dandelions growing up your front path alone – who knows you may be destroying a bees breakfast.  

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