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What Crops Do Bees Like?

Last Updated: 09.08.20

 

Beekeeping supplies reviews can indicate the types of flowers and crops bees prefer, and how to place the hives within the crop to ensure proper pollination, especially for crops that fully depend on bee pollination, such kiwifruits or macadamia nuts. Also, pesticide use poses a threat to bees, causing an alarming decrease in their numbers.

As you can find out by looking at pretty much any literature on bees, these tiny insects are crucial for the survival of the planet as we know it. What anyone needs to understand is that it’s very important to know how to take care of them, and this can only be done once we see the impact bees have for maintaining the ecosystem’s balance, through the pollination process. 

Furthermore, bees are almost solely responsible for getting this job done, so if their very existence is endangered, so is ours. In fact, many scientists consider these highly interesting creatures to be one of the keystone species that ensure our life today. As several examples have shown before, if bees disappear from a certain ecosystem, it completely collapses. 

They play a major role in agriculture as well, given that most of the crops that are grown for commercial purposes, in fact, depend on pollination ensured by bees in order to thrive. This means that entire crops that feed large numbers of people could be endangered if these hard-working insects can’t pollinate them any longer. 

Studies have shown that without bees ensuring the pollination process, most of the food that we are used to seeing in supermarkets would no longer be available, and one can only imagine the result which would be us starving. 

 

A few words on pollination 

Those of you who are not sure what this process entails should, first of all, know that bees eat nectar and pollen that they find in flowers, as these two elements provide them with the necessary nutrients for healthy development and activity, while they also enable the honey-making process. 

Pollen is the substance that comes with a lot of proteins and many other nutrients useful for the tiny insects, while nectar ensures the necessary energy for them to carry on with their work. Pollen is that yellow powder that we see in flowers and, given its lightweight structure, it sticks to a bee’s legs without any trouble, which means that it gets carried away to other flowers as well. 

This is the pollination process that we all depend on and, even though it might seem like an easy task, it’s extremely important for ensuring both fertilization and genetic diversity for multiple plants, which also means that it’s responsible for their survival. 

Some of the crops that we can find across the world depend solely on this process, but it’s also good to know that bees do tend to have preferences when it comes to crops. While it’s true that bees can choose from available plants to forage, they are also known for traveling long distances to find pollen and nectar of the highest quality. 

The explanation for this behavior is actually a very simple one. Bees use both pollen and nectar to make honey which is their main source of food to make it through the cold weather. For this reason, the end product needs to be of the highest quality, so that the hive has a chance to make it until spring. 

That’s why, if you do want your hives to pollinate a specific crop, then it’s a good idea to make sure that they are not attracted to other food sources in the vicinity. However, it’s true that this is not always possible, but there are some things that can make certain flowers more attractive. The bees’ sight has a lot to do with their preferences, so let’s take a closer look at this aspect. 

 

 

How do bees see flowers?

Being the ultimate champions in the pollinating game does have its perks, and bees certainly benefit from some special abilities. The small insects use multiple senses to get the job done, their sight being one of the most important of these. In fact, the way bees see their surroundings has been a topic that has fascinated the scientific world for a long time. 

Just like in the case of humans, this ability has everything to do with light being reflected in certain ways within the environment. In fact, the bees’ ability to see and perceive colors is one of the reasons for which flowers have brightly colored petals that differ from their leaves. Nature has seen an opportunity to attract natural pollinators just where they are needed. 

On the other hand, bees have an ability that we don’t, namely to see ultraviolet light. This characteristic ensures a great advantage when it comes to seeking out nectar and pollen. You might not be aware of this, but certain types of flowers, such as sunflowers or primroses, have specific petal patterns that are only visible in ultraviolet light, so only insects can see them. 

Nature doesn’t cease to amaze us, given that these patterns act as guidance indicators that lead bees right to the target, namely the flower that needs to be pollinated. 

Based on what many scientists have discovered, there are some main colors that bees are attracted to, namely violet, purple, and blue. This might also explain why most flowers that fully depend on pollination for their survival are almost always colored in some shade of these three colors. The more bees they can attract, the more protected and thriving their genetic pool is. 

 

What flowers and crops do bees prefer?

Bees usually go for flowers that produce both elements they need, namely pollen and nectar. This means they don’t need to travel for long distances to get the goods, and the same principle applies in the case of crops as well. Some types of crops are known to fully depend on bee pollination, some examples being kiwi, watermelon, and macadamia nuts ones. 

Besides the ones mentioned above, pollination is considered to be essential for other crops as well, such as rowanberry, passion fruit, or brazil nut. All of these plants develop in a wide range of climates, which shows how important bees are everywhere around the world. One of the most interesting types of trees that depend on pollination is the almond tree. 

These delicious almond-producing trees fully rely on pollination to produce nuts, and the largest commercial orchards in California actually require extra bee colonies during the blooming period, to get the job done. 

In the case of kiwifruits, the method that has proved to be most successful is the saturation pollination one, and in order to get the desired results, 8 hives should be put to work for every 2.5 acres of crop covered, as this forces bees to collect pollen only from the desired kiwifruit blossoms. If no chemical pesticides are used, this is a highly successful solution. 

Passion fruit, on the other hand, can be pollinated without any trouble through the bees, given that its pollen is too sticky and heavy to ever be transported via wind. As a fun fact when it comes to these crops, in the state of Florida honey bees are the only ones responsible for pollinating the existing yellow passion fruit species. 

 

 

The impact of pesticides use on bees

As many farmers around the world choose the easy and cost-effective solution of using synthetic pesticides, bees are exposed to very high risk. In fact, environmental pollution through pesticides is a growing issue, especially in tropical and subtropical regions. Given that large-scale single crops were developed, this problem becomes more important every day. 

On the other hand, bees cannot really know about these substances and they mind their own business pollinating entire crops that were treated with chemical pesticides and herbicides. In turn, these are dangerous for both bees and people, and can even be poisonous. 

For bees, even small amounts spread over a blooming field can destroy most of the local hives and communities. While certain types of pesticides can harm the environment over a longer period, when it comes to synthetic pesticides, these are never a safe bet, especially for bees, so there’s a high risk involved when they are being used. 

Even if bees are not killed right away, these harsh chemicals can lead bees to lose their ability to orientate within the field or communicate within the colony, which means that the hive can no longer work correctly and thus survive. 

 

 

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