Bees can live without us, but we can’t live without them. Some people might think that bees are annoying as they see them buzz around, crawl inside drinks or annoy people. Yet, the simple fact is, if bees didn’t exist, neither would humans. Accordingly, it’s extremely disconcerting that honeybees have been dying at an alarming rate over the past decade or so.
“When the bees disappear from the earth, there is only four years left to live. There will be no more bees, no pollination, no plants and no humans.” attributed to Albert Einstein
Bees are not just honey and other bee products. Their greatest importance and benefit is in pollination. Although bee products have a place on the market, their value is far from being comparable to the economic importance of bee pollination. In addition, bees contribute to the sustainable development of the environment and the conservation of biodiversity.
Why is pollination so important?
Pollination is needed for plants to reproduce, and so many plants depend on bees as pollinators. Bees pollinate a third of everything we eat and play a vital role in sustaining the planet´s ecosystem. Bees are industrious pollinators because they have convoluted with flowering plants over millions of years. Plants benefit from the honeybee pollination because it allows them to reproduce by setting seeds.
Without honeybee pollination, the assortment, quality and quantity of many edible and enjoyable plants would shrink drastically. Pollination is important for productivity of both agricultural and natural ecosystem. As well is important for the maintenance of diversity.
Honeybees pollinate more than 16 % of the flowering plant species in the world. Some crops must be pollinated by bees to produce fruit or seed. Honeybees pollinating 80% off all insect pollination. Some plants can reproduce only if they are pollinated by honeybees.
Bees also tend to focus their energies on one species of plant at a time. By visiting the same flowers of a particular species in one outing, much higher quality pollination occurs – rather than spreading many different pollen to different plants which are not being pollinated, all plants of one species are getting an even distribution of vital pollen from others of its same species. That makes bees the best pollinators better than other insects. Bees pollinations give good quality fruit and vegetable.
Bees are the best pollinators because they are easily managed and easily moved around, are known to exploit a wide variety of crops and actively seek out flowers with pollen.
When a bee collects nectar and pollen, from the flower of a plant, some pollen from the stamens – (the male reproductive organ of the flower)-sticks to the hairs of the body. When a bee visits the next flower, some of this pollen is rubbed off onto the stigma, or tip of the pistil(-the female reproductive organ the flower). When this happens, fertilization is possible and fruit, carrying seeds can develop.
Pollination is essentially plant reproduction. Without help from animal pollinators, our everyday food supply would look much different – at least one-third of our staples we’ve come to rely on would no longer be available. Many of the food and crops we rely on need or, at the very least, benefit from bee pollination.
Example of cultivated plants that need honey bee pollination: Alfalfa, almonds, apple, asparagus, apricot, beans, blackberries, blueberries, cabbage, citrus, cucumber, cauliflower, celery, cherries, cranberries, eggplant, garlic, grapes, lettuce, mustard melon, onion, parsley, peach, nectarine, pear, pepper, plums, pumpkin, sunflowers, strawberry, sweet potatoes, watermelon,…
Wild bees ‘just as important as honeybees’ for pollinating food crops.
Wild bees have become as important as domesticated honeybees in pollinating food crops around the world due to the dramatic decline in a number of healthy honeybee colonies over the past half-century, a study has found.
Bees are extremely important for entire ecosystems to function
There is no doubting the importance of bees to food supply for humans. Without them, our gardens would be bare and our plates empty. Despite this, we should also remember that bees are not only extremely important for humans, but also for entire ecosystems to function. As we know, bees allow plants to reproduce through pollination. As pollinators, bees play a part in every aspect of the ecosystem. They support the growth of trees, flowers, and other plants. These plants contribute to the food system by feeding animals – aside from humans – such as birds and insects. If the food source for these animals was diminished or lost completely, it would cause the entire food chain to suffer. Bees contribute to complex, interconnected ecosystems that allow a diverse number of different species to co-exist.
As citizens, we need to make sure that the policies, including the Common Agricultural Policy and the Biodiversity Strategy, protect the species that are so vital for our survival and for healthy agro-ecological food structures to exist.
Friends of the Earth Malta gratefully acknowledges financial assistance from the European Union. The content of this article are the sole responsibility of Friends of the Earth Malta and cannot be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union. The European Union cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information provided contained therein.
This project is co-financed by the Ministry for Education and Employment (MEDE) and the Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Sport and Voluntary Organisation.