For purposes of this article, the term “pollinator” will refer to the honeybee species Apis Mellifera, honeybees of European origin, mostly kept by backyard beekeepers in the United States. Keep in mind, however, there are many other important native insect pollinators: butterflies, moths, bumble bees, and solitary bees. Also, some grain crops, grasses, and pines depend on wind for pollination.
Pollination occurs when the pollen granules from the male anther of a flower is transported to the female pistil. This then allows the plant to produce seeds and fruit. Research conducted by worldwide government agencies and agricultural entities suggests over 30% of food consumed by humans is dependent on pollinators, 70% of all plants depend on pollinators for propagation, and in turn, these plants provide 25% of the food source for birds and mammals. Pollinators are truly at the heart of plant reproduction and the planet’s food sources.
Honeybees are naturally excellent pollinators. The foraging worker bee’s body is covered with tiny hairs. As the bee bounds from flower to flower, pollen granules from the flower’s male parts cling to the hairs and inevitably some fall off onto the female part of the next visited bloom. As in all cases of reproduction, the male and female participants must be of the same species. Re: Pollen granules from dandelions cannot fertilize a clover plant. Honeybees naturally are “flower specific” on any foraging flight, meaning they tend to visit only flowers of the same type on each individual trip from their hive, therefore allowing cross pollination.
Flowers attract honeybees to their petals with scents, texture, color, temperature, and even ultraviolet light. Flowers offer honeybees pollen and nectar in exchange for the bees’ work as a pollinator. The collected pollen and nectar are the basic resources bees need to make wax, honey, and food to feed the growing brood (developing bees at various stages in the hive).
Even after decades and decades of study and research, so much is still not understood about the communal inner workings of a honeybee colony. They are still quite a mystery in many aspects. What is known for sure is they are absolutely essential to the production of over 100 essential food production crops and therefore, absolutely imperative for the health and viability of all living things on the planet.