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Why are bees important in agriculture?

A bee collects pollen from a flower in the spring

Such small creatures, which almost invisibly fly from flower to flower, actually do a great job for all mankind. Without these humble labourers, our lives would be much worse than we think. After all, they contribute a lot to what we eat, to the quality of our lives, because nature has made them perfect pollinators.

Importance of pollination for agriculture

Pollination of plants plays a huge role in growing food. Most flowering plants will only produce seeds, which will not turn into nutritious fruit unless pollinators do their job and transfer pollen from the anthers to the stigmas of their flowers.

Of course, some plants can be pollinated by the wind. They’re called anemophilous plants. But most plants are pollinated by insects. These plants are called Entomophilous plants. And some of the most effective pollinators are bees, which are involved in a mutually beneficial exchange. They use pollen to feed their offspring and at the same time help the plants to transfer pollen from flower to flower, increasing their productivity.

Аccording to FAO UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, 75% of flowering plants are pollinated by insects, birds and bats. And at least a third of the world’s agricultural crops depend on these hard-working little pollinators. In other words, out of every three bites we consume relies on pollination.

It is very important to synchronise the moment when the plants need pollination with the availability of sufficient pollinators at that time. In California, to pollinate 420,000 acres, farmers don’t rely on pollinators that live only in the area. They rely on beekeepers from all over the United States to keep their crops alive. It takes about 1 million bee colonies to pollinate such a large area. That is why every year beekeepers from all over the United States come to California to pollinate the almond plantations.

How many plants need pollination. How much food depends on pollination Infographics
Without pollination, there can be no efficient agriculture.

The economic benefits of pollination

Studies have revealed that bees bring enormous economic benefits through pollination.  Wild bees bring a value of $3,251 per hectare when pollinating plants. Whereas domestic bees kept by beekeepers bring a value of $2,913 per hectare.

It is observed that in the absence of pollination, 5-8 per cent of the world’s agricultural output will not be produced, which will risk reducing the world’s food supply.

Agricultural production that depends on pollination has increased by 300% in the last 50 years.

The value of all food that depends on pollination is estimated to be between $235 billion and $577 billion, and it’s growing every year.

Products such as cocoa and coffee, which are 100 per cent dependent on pollination, provide income for family farms and smaller farms.

These numbers reflect the important role pollinators play in the lives of people on the planet.

The huge economic contribution of bee pollination in money terms. Infographics
Without pollination, between 5 and 8 per cent of food will not be produced.

Which products depend on pollination

In fact, different products depend on pollination in different ways. Some are 90 per cent, some less. As a rule, products that depend on pollination are more expensive in value terms.

Products  90% dependent on insect pollination.

Kiwi, melons, pumpkins, watermelons, cocoa beans, brazil nuts.

Products dependent on insect pollination from 40 to 90%.

Apples, apricots, blueberries, cherries, mangoes, peaches, plums, pears, raspberries, avocados, almonds, cashew nuts, kola nuts.

Products dependent on insect pollination 10 to 40%

Sunflower, rapeseed, sesame, mustard seed, soybeans, strawberries, currants, figs, gooseberries, eggplant, coconuts, okra, coffee beans.

Products dependent on insect pollination 0 to 10%

Oranges, tomatoes, lemons, limes, papayas, palm, poppy seed, linseed, cow peas, groundnuts.

Products that do not depend on insect pollination.

Wheat, maize, rice, sorghum, barley, rye, millet, oats, cassava, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, chickpeas, bananas, pineapple, grapes, lettuce, pepper, sugar cane, sugar beet, garlic.

The dependence of different products on pollination varies from 0 to 90 per cent. Infographics
The products that are most dependent on pollination are the most expensive.

The importance of bees in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, the UN General Assembly developed 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Achievement of which will eliminate poverty, violent conflict, human rights violations, climate change and environmental degradation.

Bees, which are responsible for a third of the food produced on earth are essential in achieving these goals.

Pollinators play a critical role in providing sustainable food for a growing global population [SDG 2] and help maintain biodiversity and ecosystem resilience [SDG 15]

They contribute to building sustainable livelihoods and creating new jobs, particularly for smallholder farmers, in particular by meeting the growing demand for healthy and nutritious food as well as non-food items [SDG 1 and 9].

The decline in pollinator populations, largely caused by intensive farming practices, land use changes, pesticide use and more extreme weather events is leading to disease outbreaks, increased malnutrition and non-communicable diseases, causing health problems for populations worldwide [SDG 3 and 13].

Pollination is already the most important factor for agricultural productivity. If it is better managed, yields can be increased by 25 per cent [SDG 8].

What you need to do to protect bees and other pollinators

– Plant honey plants wherever possible. On balconies, terraces, in gardens.

– Buy honey from local beekeepers.

– Raise awareness among children and adults about the importance of bees.

– Preserve meadows with wild honey plants. – Do not use harmful and dangerous pesticides.

Five actions that contribute to the conservation of bee populations. Infographics
Actions to conserve the bee population.

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