Right now, millions of bees are hard at work on farms around the world, pollinating many of our favorite foods. Some say it’s as much as 7 out of 10 crops. Others say it’s one-third of all the food we eat. But the fact is, bees love all the same vegetables people do; they just happen to get to them a little earlier. All bees want is some pollen and, in return, we get increased yields on billions of dollars of crops every year.
While many plants benefit from honeybee pollination, few require it. The starchy staple crops that make up most of the calories humans eat – corn, wheat, rice, soybeans and sorghum – can all self-pollinate, so bees tend to leave them alone. Bananas and plantains take things a step further by reproducing without any pollination at all.
Pollination by bees and other insects–known as entomophily–is predominant in plants because it diversifies their gene pool, protecting them against disease. But there are a few other ways plants can pollinate: by wind, water, rain and self-pollination, where a plant transfers pollen between its flowers on its own. Because plants have so many ways to reproduce, it varies how much each species “needs” bees.
We know that honeybee pollination is essential for at least nine plants. If honeybees were unable to pollinate farmers’ fields, these plants would be off store shelves – or much more expensive – within a year:
– All melons, including cantaloupe
Honeybee pollination is considered “greatly important” for dozens of major crops, but a few popular ones include:
(See the full chart here.)
As you can tell, reports of humanity’s death have been greatly exaggerated. We wouldn’t be doomed without bees, but they do play a part in nearly every meal we eat. You can always support hardworking local bees and beekeepers by purchasing the fruits of their labor: raw and unfiltered local honey.