What Bees Do For the Environment
Although the male parts and female parts usually reside in a single flower, plants often have elaborate mechanisms to prevent self-fertilization. In some species the stigma of the flower ripens first, before the anthers are shedding pollen. Thus, it can be fertilized only by pollen brought from an older flower. In other plants, the opposite is true. The pollen is mature and shed before the stigma ripens. Other plants, such as squashes or watermelons, have sepa rate male and female flowers. A few plants, such as mulberry or olive, have separate male plants and female plants.
Some plants, for example grasses, produce light pollen grains that may be carried by the wind or water from plant to plant. Other plants need help from insects, birds, or bats for successful pollination. Without this assistance, fruit and/or seeds would not be formed. In fact, about a third of the food Americans eat is the direct result of pollination by in sects.
More than 100 agricultural crops in the United States are pollinated by bees. This means bees are important, if not essential, for the production of nearly $7 billion worth of agricultural crops produced annually in Arizona. Examples of bee pollinated crops include watermelons, cantaloupe, citrus and apples (see story below). Although some of these crops are pollinated by bee species other than honey bees, honey bees are the only ones that can be easily managed, moved around and are known to exploit a wide variety of crops.
While a worker bee is in a flower gathering nectar, pollen from the anther often sticks to her hairy body. Because the bee generally visits a number of the same type of flower in a patch, she will rub some of the pollen off onto the stigma of another flower and complete pollina tion. Some flowers such as orchids have elaborate mechanisms to make sure bees are dusted with pollen when they visit.
Part of the reason honey bees are so important as pollinators is that they actively seek out flowers with pollen, unlike pollinators such as bats and hummingbirds who are primarily interested in nectar. Pollen stored in the hive is used as a source of protein in feeding the developing larvae.