The humble bee – a key link in our food chain

Sarah Meraner

The humble bee – a key link in our food chain

“No bees = empty shelves” – that was the alarming message recently visible on posters next to empty shelves in a supermarket. They were part of a campaign aimed at highlighting how important bees are in the production of many items we take for granted. Failure to realise the significance of the humble bee in our food chain may result in the slow disappearance of foodstuffs essential to human survival. 

One of the bee’s natural activities, pollinating plants and flowers, is key to the food chain. As they extract sweet nectar from flowers, pollen contained around the petals becomes attached to their furry bodies. When they then fly off to their next destination, this pollen is transported through the air and deposited where they next land – thus pollinating another flower and making it able to bear fruit. 

Wild bees and honey bees

The pollination work carried out by the often smaller and more agile wild bee is particularly efficient since it visits plants which the normal honey bee has difficulty reaching. Alto Adige, Italy’s northernmost province, is home to 450–500 species of wild beets – and experts agree that they do not receive anywhere near the attention they deserve. Structurally weak landscapes without nesting opportunities and flowers in bloom, monoculture farming, frequent cutting of grassland and the use of pesticides make life difficult for wild bees. Honey bees, on the other hand, are less at risk than their wild cousins since they are looked after by friendly beekeepers and therefore less exposed to environmental dangers. However, in order to maintain a healthy and prospering food chain, we need both – wild bees and honey bees – so that the latter have a good chance of surviving in often challenging conditions.

What if…

In China they already know what life is like without bees. Uncompromising farming policies have led to a situation where the populations of bees has dropped to such low levels that in many regions people are forced to pollinate by hand. In our region too the number of wild bees has decreased – though most people are not aware of the dangers this poses.

Thankfully there are beekeepers and people like Georg Kirchmaier. In the settlement of Cornedo all'Isarco, part of the village of Collepietra / San Valentino in Campo, the forest education expert has been working with the local beekeeping club and the municipal authorities to create a bee house and a bee walking trail with six info points. Both showcase the natural habitats of bees, which like to live in wetlands, meadows and forests, and tell visitors which plants and animals have a major impact on wild bee and honey bee populations. The info points also explain where bees can be found during the daytime and throughout the spring, summer and autumn. The bee house itself is home to five different bee colonies. 

From August, Georg Kirchmaier offers guided bee walks in the local forest. Meeting point is at the Egger Moos car park at 10:00 – more information from the local tourist office (Tel. 0471 619560).

Sarah Meraner

is responsible for Digital Storytelling at clicktext, the South Tyrolean agency for corporate content and blogger of “Geschichten im Kopf [Stories on my mind]”. Making use of every one of her senses to experience the world, she can tell us all about it in words, stories and images.

The Italian version of this text is the work of our translation wizard Serena Schiavolin, responsible for Italian content at clicktext, who brings a typical Italian touch to our stories!