All bees are important
November 7, 2017
Celebrating our pollinators
Bees and other pollinators are truly incredible creatures – having evolved symbiotically with plants, pollinators perform a crucial role in many plants’ reproduction. In fact, 90 percent of plants require pollinators to reproduce.
Pollination is the act of moving pollen between the male and female parts of a flower in the same species. This is vital for the life cycle of all flowering plants, and necessary in seed and fruit production.
Bees are the most effective of all pollinators as they feed exclusively on flowers. Whilst undertaking the act of pollination, flowers reciprocally reward bees with nectar or pollen (and sometimes both!).
And they come in all shapes and sizes! There are some 4,000 species of native bees in the United States and about 20,000 worldwide.
Many plants have evolved so that their shape reflects the type of pollinator they require for reproduction. For example, plants such as cranberries and tomatoes require bumble bees unique “buzz pollination” – bumblebees hold onto the flower with their jaws and vibrate with their wings to dislodge the pollen from the flower’s anthers.
Some plants have long, tubular flowers—such as the Foxglove—for bees with long tongues, whereas other flowers are suited to bees with short tongues, like sunflowers are to green sweat bees.
Pollinators also play an integral role in our agricultural system.
30 percent of the world’s food production is dependent upon pollinators. Without pollinators, we may be forced to pollinate plants by hand, or it may mean trucking hives of bees by the thousands for a successful crop.
This is already happening in many parts of the world where there are pollinator deserts due to lack of diversity of available nectar and pollen, destruction of habitat, pollution of waterways, an increase in the use of pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides (which can be neurotoxic to bees and other pollinators).
Not only are pollinators important in our agricultural system, many are also tasty morsels for birds and small mammals, which require pollinator-protein to survive.
The decline of pollinators can mean a negative upwards affect in the food chain. All creatures are important, great and small – from the humble bee to the great grizzly bear, and human-kind. We all depend on pollinators for diversity in our diets.