What role do bees play in our food supply?

bee dusty with pollen
Pollinators such as bees, birds and bats affect 35 percent of the world's crop production.
In the United States, more than $15 billion dollars worth of crops are pollinated by bees each year. One-third of our food comes from plants that depend on pollination. In the United States, honey bees perform most of the insect pollination. Other pollinators are ants, bats, bees, beetles, birds, butterflies, flies, moths, and wasps.

As the world population grows, so does the pressure to produce more food. Pollination has never been more critical for food production and human livelihoods.

At the bottom of this page is a partial list of crops dependent upon or benefited by insect pollination, according to S.E. McGregor, USDA.

What exactly is pollination?

Most flowering plant species only produce seeds if animal pollinators move pollen from the anthers to the stigmas of their flowers. Bees fly from blossom to blossom gathering pollen and nectar for their food. When they land on flowers to collect pollen, some of the pollen sticks to bees’ hairy bodies (as shown in the photo on this page) and then brushes off onto another flower.

While many plants are completely dependent on pollinators to produce fruits, vegetables and seeds, other plants can be pollinated by wind or water, or self-pollinated. For example, pine trees are wind-pollinated. Plants that are dependent on pollinators tend to have brightly-colored flowers, nectar or scent to attract pollinators.

Some of the Crops Dependent Upon or Benefited by Insect Pollination

alfalfa
almond
apple
apricot
artichoke
asparagus
avocado
bean (including soybean)
beet
blackberry
blueberry
broccoli
cacao
canola
cantaloupe
carrot
cashew
cauliflower
celery
cherry
chive
coconut
coffee
cotton
cranberry
cucumber
date
dill
eggplant
fennel
grape
kiwi
lemon
macadamia
mustard
olive
onion
papaya
parsley
peach
pear
pepper
plum
pumpkin
raspberry
sesame
squash
strawberry
tomato
turnip
vanilla
watermelon
zucchini

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