Many people may think of bees as nothing more than those little pesky, fuzzy insects buzzing around. Despite offering the delicious treat of honey and raw honeycomb, you’d be surprised at how vital they actually are to our ecosystem, food supply, and to our everyday lives! For instance, did you know that pollination is essential to maintaining almost all of the fruits and vegetables that we consume on a daily basis? It’s true! And of all the things that bees do, pollination is the most important.
We are dependent on bees for this very act that they perform with plants. And humans are not the only ones who depend on bees for pollination—plants do too! Out of all the pollinating insects and animals, bees are the champions when it comes to the best pollinator. Bees are actually the bees’ knees! These flower-seeking pollen hunters visit flowers in order to collect pollen and nectar. When bees pollinate, it benefits us and it is extremely important. We surely would be missing out on a lot of food if it weren't for these pollinating insects.
How Pollination Works
How could pollination, which seems to be so simple of a process, be so vital? Once the bee lands on the desirable plant or flower, bees suck up the nectar—which is the basis for honey—using their proboscis (an elongated mouthpart) and store it in their honey stomach. Fun fact here: Bees have two stomachs. One stomach is for food and the other special stomach, the “honey stomach,” is for storing nectar collected from flowers so they can carry it back to their hive. I know we’re all pretty envious of bees having two stomachs. When bees collect pollen and nectar from flowers, pollen from the male reproductive organ of the flower sticks to the hairs of the bee’s body.
When the bee visits the next flower, some of this pollen is rolled off and onto the female reproductive organ of the flower. Once the bees land on a flower, their feet are placed in a groove that contains the pollen sacs. When the bee is finished and on to the next flower, it carries off this sac on its feet. Then upon landing on another flower for its pollen, the pollen sac falls off the bee and the pollen falls out of the sac. This is what creates the whole process of pollination. Mind. Blown.
So… Why flowers? Why are bees so drawn to plants?
It’s pretty crazy to think about how bees spend their whole lives finding and landing on different flowers and plants. Much like is the case for humans, the bright and beautiful colors and the refreshing scent of flowers appeal to the bees and draw them in. Bees can also see colors and have preferred and “favorite” colors—just like we do! Generally, bees tend to fly toward the colors yellow and blue. (Fun fact: they cannot see the color red.) Bees are particularly drawn to certain kinds of flowers and plants as well. Many gardeners strategically plan their garden to attract bees to help with the pollination process. Pollination plays a healthy and productive part of the garden.
Bees are drawn to single flowers with one ring of petals; these provide more nectar and pollen than double flowers do. Blue, purple and yellow flowers tend to have the most nectar—which is loaded with sugars and is the bee’s main source of energy. But now, you may be wondering how the little guys smell the pollen? Here is your answer: Bees can smell with their antennae. They can smell around and spatially, which enables them to tell which direction the smell is coming from in order for them to head straight for the pollen-filled plants to collect the nectar.
What does pollen do for us?
Let’s just put it this way… without bees, many of the country’s crops would not even exist! Bee colonies take care of the pollination of crops like apples, melons, berries, cherries, and even broccoli and almonds! It is estimated that there are about 7 million bee colonies in the U.S. today, two-thirds of which travel the country each year pollinating crops and producing honey and beeswax, both of which greatly benefit us. Further, pollen is a great source of proteins and fats as well.
Summing this all up, without pollination, there wouldn’t be a lot of things that are present in our lives such as our food supply and nature’s beauty. It’s easy to overlook the importance of bees, but what would a world be without all of our favorite fruits and vegetables? And no flowers? Here at Pass the Honey, we can’t imagine a world without these things. We also think it’s an added bonus that we can harvest the honey that these special creatures produce, making a delicious treat!