Monday, May 12, 2008

Pollinators - Honey Bees

The garden is beautiful. My lilies and roses are close to a first bloom. The lavender's beginning its wild rampage on the South side of our house and the sedum has claimed yet another acre of rock wall. Year after year these glories happen and, although I notice them and appreciate them, I never really notice or appreciate the little critters that make it all possible.

Over 80% of our food crops are dependent upon the help of birds, bats, bees or other insects for pollination. It is not a process we humans can replicate with tool or machine, and yes, we have tried. When humans attempt it, the process can only be accomplished on a small scale and is still not very successful.

Perhaps the most well-known pollinator is the honey bee. When my lavender blooms, their little black and yellow bodies are constantly weaving about the purple flowers. While searching for nectar, the honey bee dusts itself with pollen from one flower and transfers it to the next flower it lands on, thereby enabling the plant to reproduce and bear fruit, seeds or more flowers. Honey bees are responsible for the reproduction of apple trees, blueberry bushes, cucumber plants, sunflowers and many more crops we humans rely upon. In the year 2000, Cornell University conducted a study and found, "the direct value of honey bee pollination to U.S. agriculture is more than $14.6 billion." Let's hope the bees don't expect to collect.

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