What Is Pollination?
Pollination is the way plants become fertilized, it’s also by this way they achieve genetic diversity. Plants are living creatures just like humans and insects, for them to flourish and multiply, they need to “mate.”
Plants can’t move around, therefore, they require the help of insects. Bees help them to reproduce as they carry pollen grains from the male anther to the female stigma.
Pollination doesn’t necessarily require the help of other living things, however. Pollen can spread through the wind as well.
Bees feed on nectar from various plants and flowers. They also collect some of its pollen which they carry to their nest.
When the worker bee is busy collecting nectar and pollen, some of the pollen will stick to their hair. The worker bee has a special nectar sac within the stomach, called a crop. They can carry as much nectar in this as their own body weight.
Some bee species even have special pollen baskets where they carry the pollen. As the bee moves on to the next flower, the pollen will spread. The pollen will enter the flower’s female reproductive organ, and fertilization is then possible.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to find dead bees covered in pollen in certain rural locations. This is becoming increasingly common as bees land on flowers heavily covered in chemicals and pesticides.
Why Is Pollination so Important?
Pollination is essential, for various reasons. It not only benefits plants and flowers, but it also benefits us in many ways. Let’s take a closer look.
How Does Pollination Benefit Humans?
Fertilization of plants is what enables them to produce resources: vegetables and fruits, for example. Some plants don’t require bees, crops such as corn are fertilized through the wind.
Other vegetables, such as peppers and tomatoes, need the help of insects, such as bees. Pollination is also important for the production of fruits, such as apples.
Because it’s so crucial, many beekeepers actually rent out honeybees to farmers in order to pollinate fields.
The ecosystem simply wouldn’t survive without pollination. The USDA has estimated that plants dependent on pollination are actually worth around $10 billion per year.
How Does Pollination Benefit Plants?
Plants are living creatures just like humans and insects. In order for them to multiply, they need to create offspring, which are, of course, seeds.
The seeds will spread and grow into new flourishing plants, that we and other living things can benefit from.
Without pollination, the plants won’t be fertilized and therefore are unable to reproduce, meaning they wouldn’t make seeds or continue their life cycle.
How Does Pollination Benefit Bees?
Bees are very much dependent on flowers and their resources. Plants create nectar to attract bees and other insects, in order to ensure pollination takes place.
Worker bees will leave the hive to forage. In one trip they can visit hundreds of flowers. The worker bees collect pollen and nectar, which they carry back to the hive, pollinating plants along the way.
In the hive, worker bees will regurgitate the nectar, which will begin the process to turn it into honey. Pollen and nectar are also mixed to create bee bread. Bee bread is very rich in proteins and is a big part of the bees’ diet.
Worker bees in the nest will also feed on the honey which they produce from the nectar. The sugar content of the honey is then secreted through special glands in the bee’s abdomen, coming out as tiny flakes. This substance is then chewed by worker bees and made into beeswax to produce the honeycombs.
What Do Bees Use Pollen For?
Pollen is used for a couple of things within the hive. Worker bees create bee bread from pollen and nectar. Scientists have also discovered that bees will sometimes add other secretions and micro-organisms.
The additions help to break down the pollen while releasing amino acids and other nutrients. How the bee bread is composed depends on the types of flowers as well as the season. In the hive, it’s mainly worker bees and larvae who feed on the bee bread.
Bee pollen is another substance created in the hive. It’s a mixture of pollen, enzymes, wax, honey, bee secretions, and nectar. Worker bees in the hive will pack the mixture into balls or pellets. These are stored and used as food for the nest.
Bee pollen is high in nutrients, as it consists of sugars, minerals, fatty acids, vitamins, proteins, and other components.
Bumblebees Are Important Pollinators
Bumblebees are crucial pollinators of many wildflowers. There are around 49 species of bumblebees in the United States.
Bumblebees have a specific buzzing, or sonicating, which many flowers require for pollination. Tomatoes are one of those plants that don’t create nectar. When bumblebees land on the flower to collect pollen, they will vibrate their wing muscles to shake out the pollen grains.
Pollen is actually very important to bumblebee queens. The queen hibernates during the winter, and as she emerges in the spring, she has to start producing eggs. Pollen activates her ovaries and develops them until they are ready to produce eggs.
The queen will also create a ball of pollen, which she moistens using saliva and nectar, also known as bee bread. When she is ready to lay eggs, she will lay them on the pollen ball.
How Do Bees Find Flowers?
Bees are often drawn to open or flat flowers, with lots of nectar and pollen. The scent and color of the flowers also play a huge role when the bee is foraging. Flowers have adapted to bees’ preferences over time.
Bumblebees can actually sense the electric fields that surround flowers. They have also learned to distinguish between different fields of flowers. Bumblebees use this electrical signal to know whether a flower has recently been visited.
Pollination is an essential part of our ecosystem, it’s something we all benefit from. Bees create important food sources from pollen, which they store in their hive. Pollination is what enables plants to create fruits, vegetables, and crops from which we benefit.
When bees land on a flower, some of the pollen from the anther will stick to the bee. As the bee flies to the next flower, the pollen is rubbed onto the stigma of the flower, enabling fertilization to take place.
While honey bees among other species are yet to be placed on the endangered list, it’s essential we help them in their pollination role as best as possible for the good of the planet.