Bees and Bats
Both bees and bats evoke strong human emotions—one way or the other.
Some people love bees while others fear being stung by them. Some people think bats are ‘cute’ while others think they are weird disease-infested vampires.
Bees are insects and bats are mammals, and both are three-letter words that begin with B. They are two of the greatest pollinators on planet earth.
There’s an ancient saying, “knowledge is power” and there is much truth to this. Education at a young age about such creatures as bees and bats moves people beyond fear to awe, gratitude and inspiration.
It is necessary for the ongoing survival of humanity that bees not just stay alive but thrive in a wild and wondrous world again. And yes, this is still possible if enough people care.
This 3-minute long Smithsonian video shows bats as master pollinators of the night. If you enjoy drinking an occasional tequila sunrise, thank the bats!
There is so much more to bees than the fact that they pollinate 70% of the crops that 90% of humanity eats. Ask anybody who works with bees and has developed a heart-centered bond with them. They are the most amazing creatures on the planet.
Have you ever been close enough to a beehive to hear the hum? Honeybees buzz because their little wings beat about 230 times per second, which causes audio-vibrations in the air. They are sensitive to vibration and smell and feel everything.
The bee’s brain is tiny—about the size of a sesame seed. Size matters little, however, since the bee is capable of complex calculations, communicates distances and direction to her hive-mates by way of an intricate waggle dance, and always knows her place in the hive, whether she is a nurse bee or a forager. As we have blogged recently, the worker bee can do simple math and can be trained to do many tasks.
To make 1 pound of honey, the honeybees must collect nectar from 2 million flowers, and a bee would need to fly around the earth three times to make 1 pound of honey. An average foraging trip allows a worker bee to visit 50-100 flowers, which means she may visit up to 5,000 flowers in a day. One little honeybee works herself to death and only manages to collect about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.
The honeybee has been making honey for about 150 million years, and this amazing substance seems to last forever. A 2,000-year old jar of honey was found in an Egyptian tomb and was said to still be fresh and edible.
Bees have other rich creations that humans enjoy, too. Honey, beeswax and venom as well as pollen and royal jelly. And then there is propolis, an intriguing blend of bee saliva and beeswax with tree sap that is anti-bacterial and helps heal wounds.
Bats are very different to bees but are also master pollinators. They are even more feared and misunderstood by many people, especially since they are nocturnal, hang upside down, and spend their time in dark caves. Bats fear humans and try to avoid them, so like bees, they pose no danger to humans under normal circumstances.
Bats are responsible for pollinating 300-500 species of fruit like bananas, mangoes, guava, avocados, dates and agave, as well as spreading seeds for figs, cacao and nuts. They pollinate plants that bloom at night, and the act of a bat pollinating a plant is called chiropterophily. Bats also ensure the survival of about 80 plants that provide medicine to humans. In fact, bats are responsible for 90% of rain forest reforestation.
A bat consumes up to 3,000 insects in a single night, so they are beneficial to our environment and for agriculture, since many insects attack crops. We have bats to thank for the fact that so many mosquitoes disappear every night, and this helps reduce possible human exposure to West Nile virus and malaria.
Bats do not get stuck in human hair and they are not blind. Their sight is fine, and they have a splendid echolocation navigation system, somewhat like dolphins. Scientists have used bats as models to develop navigational tools for the blind. Bats also don’t damage property or carry infectious diseases. When it comes to rabies, less than 1/2 of 1% of all bats might contract it.
Let’s turn up the gratitude for these two master pollinators, the bee by day and the bat by night. Help to educate people about these amazing creatures so they can turn their fears into appreciation.
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