By Ayanda Dlamini
I’m constantly learning about the finer details of the coffee industry. There are so many layers, so many accumulated moments that create the coffee we all drink and love.
I recently learned that bees love coffee, and I obviously had to look into it a bit more. I say “obviously” because of my love for coffee and the industry, as well as for the little kid I once was, who obsessed over The Bee Movie. I enjoy the fact that these two entities of life and nature are rarely talked about in the same breath, but share corresponding purposes in nature.
Coffee plants serve as an excellent food source for animals, including Bees. The flower that grows on the coffee plant (named coffea), alongside the cherries, consists of caffeine in the flower's nectar.
The nectar is what bees are drawn to the most, and makes the bees alert and as busy as ever. Caffeine also serves as a memory and learning booster for bees, enhancing their memory and ability to find favourable flowers. This information formed a new perspective for me, that humans and bees are more alike than we think.
Image courtesy of Helena Coffee
Alongside this, bees also help towards the flowering season of coffee plants, contributing to the plant’s ability to bear fruit. Bees have also shown to increase the yield and quality of beans during harvest season.
I wanted to take my research a step further by contacting a Beekeeper: Pete’s Bees. Pete is based in Nigel and so generously shared his research about what bees have to offer in the world of coffee.
He shared with me that Bee Keepers have advised that coffee is mostly self-pollinating; however, there has been lots of research done where the value of bees has been indicated in the livelihoods of coffee plants.
Pete then went on to share what he referred to as “the most reputable research”. A book written by John B. Free, called Insect Pollination of Crops. Of which states that the bee factor for pollination of Coffea Arabica is about 35% and for the Robusta species is about 65%.
He further shared with me that, “in terms of Beekeeping we define the Nectar and Pollen value to bees on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best. So the value defined for coffee is: N2-3P0-2 (some wind pollination) meaning that bees also benefit”.
I realised that there’s still plenty left for me to learn, not just in the world of coffee, but in the world of bees too. Both worlds are clearly dense and have plenty of layers to explore. And now my gratitude for a cup of good coffee not only extends beyond the brands I’m drinking, but also acknowledges and appreciates the bees and their influential efforts.
Coffee Plants Make a Buzz for Bees - Bloomling
The Bees Help The Coffee Flower To Bear Fruit - Helena Coffee
Diversifying to Save a Natural Partnership - IWCA Uganda