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A Farmer’s Secret Weapon

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Bees are a vital part of the farming process. Many crops rely in some way on pollination via bees. These crops, close to 100 species, make up about 1/3 of the US diet including apples, almonds, cherries, strawberries, etc. With honey bee populations dropping from over 4 million to 2.5 million in the past couple decades, declining rates have some people worried about the future of agriculture.

Bees are excellent pollinators. Pollination is the transportation of pollen from the male reproductive organ of a plant to the female reproductive organ of a plant. Though there are several thousand types of bees, Honey Bees are the best for pollinating because of their quick flight, and the fact that they tend to stick to one type of flower/crop at a time. This means the bees will spend several days carrying and pollinating one type of plant, so the rate of reproduction is higher. It is estimated bees do up to 80% of crop pollination in the U.S. There are other insects and even birds that pollinate also, but with the vast amount of crops being planted each year, Honey Bees are the most efficient system to use for pollination.

Bees are often moved around from place to place in trucks so that they may pollinate multiple plants depending on the season and location. The entire hive is subdued and packed into a truck, and unloaded at their next target. Travel can stress the bees out, causing less pollination to occur. These travelling bee hives need to be monitored and scheduled in order to keep them healthy and unstressed.

Sources:

“Impact of CCD on US Agriculture.” PBS

“The Importance of Bees in Agriculture.” AgWeb

“Learn How Bees Play an Important Role in Agriculture.” The Nature Conservancy

 

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