Bees are hardworking creatures with a laborious work ethic. They play a vital role in sustaining the world’s ecosystem.1 They pollinate around 84% of crops that are grown for human consumption. These crops rely on pollination to increase the yields and quality. These include fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts, coffee, sunflowers, and tea.2
Their contribution to the ecosystem is invaluable. Animals feed on fruits and berries from the plants pollinated by bees. More so, humans feed on the same plants, and the animals as well. Therefore, bees deserve the title, “guardians of the world’s food chain and biodiversity of our species.”3
A symbiotic relationship
Bees need the flowers for food while the flowers depend on the bees for reproduction.4 Nectar and pollen from flowering plants are the only sources of food for the bees. Nectar gives energy while pollen is rich in protein.2
During this process of searching for food, the bees get covered in pollen from the male part of the flower, the stamen, and the deposit on the female part, the stigma, of the next flower that they visit.1
They carry balls of pollen on their back legs which collect on the pollen baskets that they go back with to the hive to feed their young ones after fertilizing the flowers.2
Born to do it
Bees do their work dutifully, and they are excellent at it. They were created for it. They have stiff hairs and pockets on their legs that allow them to collect more pollen. This also helps to efficiently transport it from one part to another or one plant to another. 2
Bees tend to visit the flowers on the same plant rather than move from one plant to another. Bees focus their energies on one species of a plant at a time.1 This ensures that higher quality pollination takes place rather than distributing different pollen to other plants.5
Bumble bees are more successful because they have bigger and have more vigorous vibrations. This helps to disperse the pollen to the flowers it visits.3
Importance of pollination
Pollination is the transfer of pollen from the male part of the flower to the female part of the flower, from which then a seed is formed.2 Once the pollen is deposited on the stigma, it moves down to the ovary and fertilizes and forms a seed. The seed will then grow into a vegetable or a fruit.4Think about the apple tree that blossoms into many apples - all because of fertilization.
Provides a source of food
It might surprise you that a third of our food is dependent on pollination.2 Bees play a significant role in the food we eat directly through pollination. Although some plants rely on wind for cross-pollination, while others rely on animals, other insects, or birds, most rely on bees for pollination.1
Without pollination, seeds won’t form and thus we won’t have the food supply. Pollination isn’t just important for the food we eat, but also is key for crops, such as field beans and clover, which livestock depends on for food, which we depend on for meat.
More so, pollination maintains the genetic diversity of flowering plants. Flowers that are visited often produce larger and more uniform fruit compared to the less visited ones.4 Without the bees, we wouldn’t have our freeze dried broccoli, cucumbers, blueberries, or apples and a majority of other products.
And that’s not all.
Bees provide us honey and wax. Honey is formed using nectar. They regurgitate it and pass it back and forth in their mouths to one another, then deposit it, and seal in a honeycomb. Bees store honey in their hives as their winter food stores.3
Honey contributes to 400 million pounds in the UK.3 Also, it was valued at $317.1 million in 2013 in the US.2
Beautify the world
Through pollination, the floral landscapes are made beautiful and provide attractive homes to other insects and birds.5 Plants attract bees by their bright colors: open or flat flowers that have lots of pollen and nectar.
Honey bee shortage threatens crop pollination
In the past, farmers relied on wild bees for pollination. However, their population is on the decline at an alarming rate, because of extreme weather conditions, use of pesticides, disease, and loss of habitat climate change.4 Now farmers have to buy commercially bred bumble bees and put them on their land hoping that they would pollinate their crops. It is expensive and can spread disease.5 As Albert Einstein said, “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years to live.”2
There is a great urgency to restore our ecosystem and create landscapes that support diverse flora and fauna as man’s survival is linked to bees. Looking at how important bees are for our survival, what would we do without them?