The importance of bees as pollinators

I recently read a magazine article about bees, and realized that I had underestimated their importance.  The most important job of bees is to pollinate. Pollination is essential for plants to reproduce, and a great many plants depend on bees as pollinators.  When gathering nectar and pollen from the flower of a plant, some pollen from the stamens sticks to the body of the bee. When the bee moves to the next flower, some of this pollen is transferred to the pistil.  When this occurs, fertilization is possible. Because plants depend on bees and other insects to reproduce, they have adapted over the years to become more attractive. Bees are more attracted to plants with open or flat tubular flowers with a plentiful supply of pollen and nectar.  A flower’s fragrance also appeals to the bees. The bright colors of certain flowers help to lure in the bees. A long list of foods and crops rely on bee pollination. Apples, asparagus, blueberries, cabbage, cherries and grapes are just a few of them. Flowers that are visited more frequently by bees tend to produce larger and superior fruit than those which are neglected.  The benefit of pollination is most apparent in tree fruit, such as pears, plums, peaches and apples. Bees aren’t the only pollinators. They share the job with other insects, animals, wind and water. Various plants have adapted to their most common pollinators. Birds, particularly hummingbirds, help with pollination. The plants that draw birds are typically bright colored, with red, orange or yellow flowers, and are often odorless.  Bats frequently pollinate plants which have a strong scent but aren’t all that colorful. The wind pollinates a large variety of plants, often helping out those which do not produce nectar. A small variety of plants, particularly those that grow in or near rivers and streams, are pollinated by water.

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