Thank your pollinators before you eat another mouthful of food as one of every three bites of food comes from them. We can almost say that pollinators rule our food supply as more than 30% of the world’s flowering plants and cereals (this includes more than 130 types of produce plants) depend on insect pollination.
Pollination is the process of transferring pollen grains from the male anther of a flowering plant to the female stigma of the same flowering plant or another flowering plant by pollinating agents. Simply put, it is the transfer of pollen to the part of the plant containing the ovules. This process is a critical part in the reproductive process of more than 3,00,000 flowering plants as it is involved in the production of seeds. Seeds are produced when pollen is transferred between flowers of the same species and producing seeds is one of the multiple ways in which a plant can reproduce. The ultimate requirement of any organism, including plants, animals and insects, is to give birth to an offspring and continue the survival of the community generations after generations. Flowers act as the tool used by plants to produce seeds.
Flowering plants supply humans and animals with food, shelter and fiber, put us at a decreased risk of chronic diseases when we consume fruits and vegetables and they can also serve as fuel sources. Pollination can be done by means of wind or water but more than 80% of the flowering plants (Angiosperms) rely on animals such as bats, bees, flies, beetles, butterflies and many other insects, most conspicuous of which are bees. Bees alone comprise of more than 30,000 distinct species worldwide.
Honey bees are one of the best pollinators for different reasons. They are blessed with a hairy body that trap pollen and carry it between flowers. These pollen as well as nectar from flowering plants are required by bees to rear young ones and hence, the insects frequently visit flowers in large numbers to obtain sufficient food. By flocking onto the same species at a time they serve as good pollinators for this reason. Yet another advantage these tiny insects hold is that, their body size enables them to pollinate flowers of many different shapes and sizes.
A bee picks and chooses flowers that are enriched with nectar, consists of colored petals that are blue, yellow or a mix of both, have a sweet aroma, bilaterally symmetrical, flowers are tubular with nectar at the base, open during daytime and consist of a correct landing platform. Bees locate the nectar with the aid of ultraviolet light present at the center of the flower unlike humans to whom this light remains invisible. The bee’s UV ray-sensing ability proves to be of dual benefit-the bees can rapidly collect nectar and the flower is also pollinated much effectively. Crops such as apples, apricots, cherries, cloves, cucumber, pear, peach, pumpkin, watermelon, sunflower, squash, muskmelon, plums and cranberries must be pollinated by bees to produce fruits or seeds.
Using bees for pollination is a specialized practice that needs different management skills from that of honey production. Farmers too can contribute towards pollination by enabling pollinator-friendly tweaks on their lands such as hedgerows and field borders. One can call it a good pollinator habitat when the habitat comprises of high-value pollen and nectar plants. Farmers can also substitute flower beds for lawns, minimize pesticide use and set up houses for bats and native bees.
A Farmer’s Best Friend
Honey bees are often quoted to be a farmer’s best friend as they have the potential to increase or even double the yields of crops at no extra cost or effort. Honeybee pollination help farmers produce maximum yield of oilseeds, fruits, vegetables and pulses. Know your pulses and their richly-present nutrients from the website www.firsteatright.com. Normally, a beehive of 50,000 insects pollinates half a million plants in one day making the rest of the pollinators diminish into insignificance.
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