The Importance of Bees in Agriculture
Bees are one of the most helpful little creatures on our planet, although more commonly seen as a nuisance. All over the Globe, “Close to 200 crop species…rely to some degree on pollination services provided by this one species—collectively, these crops make up approximately 1/3 of the world’s diet, including the majority of high-value crops that contribute to healthy diets,”
Bees provide essential pollination for flowers that other winged insects cannot do as effectively. Bees collect pollen using a unique technique known as “floral fidelity,” meaning they only collect from one species of flower at a time. This helps plants because it ensures the pollen the bees are carrying will be transported to the stigma, or female reproductive system, of the same plant species. Individual bees will collect from one particular flower species for a few days before changing to a new flower, which is why you will not see bees in a small garden with a variety of flowers.
In addition to agricultural crops, the honeybee pollinates many of the native plants that serve as habitat and food sources for our wildlife across the nation, helping sustain the vigor and diversity of the environment. Food that is used in feeding livestock, such as soybeans and buckwheat, also must be pollinated by bees. In this way, bees are essential the meat industry.
Cotton is a bee-produced product as well. Each year the US produces about 21 million bales of cotton, with over a third of the production taking place in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. Business revenues average $100 billion from cotton alone, making bees incredibly profitable.
Bees are nature’s pollinators and the key to providing the world with many different crops. People should not fear bees (so long as you do not have an allergy!) because bees are calm insects that do not wish to harm us, and only sting when they feel threatened. If a bee comes around you, then it is most likely attracted to the food you have or the smell of your perfume. The best thing to do when bees are around is to remain calm and move slowly; swatting at them will only stress them out and make them more likely to sting. Without bees, every part of the world’s ecosystem would decline, which is why they are so important to agriculture.