Role of Honey Bees in Pollination of Plants

German Koelreuter and Sprengel stated that bees are the pollinators of plants for the first time in the 1750s-1800s. In 1892, Waite proposed that bee colonies could be used to pollinate fruit trees. At that time, Waite has identified the importance of cross-pollination (external match) in fruit trees and shared this information. Subsequent studies were based on this theory and the benefits of having bee colonies near orchards were conducted later. So why pollination and fertilization are so important?

While the bees circulating among the beautiful blooming plants create a pleasant sight that we can always see, this is not at all coincidental. Bees and blooming plants are natural partners. Each performs certain functions for the other’s life and reproduction, and in this sense, there is a relationship of interest between them. When bees are observed for a certain period of time, it is seen that different bee species go to different flowers. The color, shape, and smell of the flowers of these plants specifically attract these species and provide nectar and pollen which are the main nutrients of bees. When the bees turn to flowers to collect nectar, they also transfer pollen between plants of the same species. As a result of this transfer, fertilization is provided in the plants. Thus, blooming plants and bees provide this beneficial partnership for both sides.

Think of honey bees that move from one flower to another or swarm into an apple orchard when trees blossom. Or, think of birds that are waiting for the fruits to ripen the most, annoying the farmers. Both cases benefit the plants. Bees help pollinate the flowers, while birds allow the seeds to spread to the environment.

How Honey Bees Contribute to the Pollination of Plants

Since these plants cannot move to fertilize, cannot spread to new areas on their own and cannot be protected from animals to be fed with them, all these functions need to be fulfilled in other ways. Some plants use wind or water to fertilize and spread seeds. Many plants also resort to chemical deterrents to keep herbivores away but develop alternative formation strategies. Animals that play a role in these strategies carry pollen and seeds elsewhere. Plants provide such services to animals as food.

Blooming plants attract animals to pollinate, often by using showy and striking flowers, and to spread seeds by using colorful, fragrant and nutritious fruits. The sensory systems of the animals have also been able to select such symptoms. Humans have similar systems; this is why some flowers are so beautiful and attractive to people. People use flower and fruit essences as perfumes and use them as motifs in works of art, architecture, clothing and interior decoration.

Many delicious fruits, such as strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, have evolved in the form of food prizes for birds and mammals spreading their seeds. Therefore, fruits have gone through a natural adaptation process in which they become useful nutrients for humans. The cultivation of apples, cherries, and many other fruits depends on the presence of a reliable source of bee-pollinators. For this reason, many fruit producers benefit from the services of beekeepers. When beekeepers carry their hives from one garden to another, they contribute to pollination and obtain honey themselves. Fruit producers also benefit from bee pollination. For example, in monosexual flowers of pumpkin, it is not possible to obtain yield without the pollination service of bees.

Chemical pesticides used against pests that damage agricultural products or carry diseases constitute a threat to insect pollinators that are important for agriculture. These chemical drugs destroy a wider population beyond the target. For example, in the eastern part of Canada, aerial spraying to eliminate a worm harmful to forests has also caused the death of bee colonies that will pollinate blueberries cultivated, resulting in major losses for producers. When farmers and horticulturists do not use such chemical drugs, pollinators such as bees multiply and plants produce more fruit.

The presence of most of the blooming plants found in nature depends on the availability of suitable agents for pollination or seed propagation. Some fig species, an important food source for many animals in tropical regions, depend on a single pollinator or spreader species. Therefore, in parallel with the extinction of this species, either locally or globally, the dependent plant species will also be in danger of extinction, which will adversely affect other animal species fed from the dependent plant species. Comprehension of pollination, propagation and defense interactions is important for the protection of threatened plant and animal species, restructuring of damaged habitats and developing strategies for keeping global biological diversity at a high level.

Cross-Pollination Is the Transfer of Pollen From One Flower of the Same Type to Another

Blooming plants need mechanisms that will bring pollen to the stigmas of their flowers and thus ensure reproduction. Pollen transfer in this sense is called pollination. When pollination occurs and where the pollen and stigma are suitable, a pollen particle develops to form a pollen tube, which carries sperm to the ovary in the ovarium. In many plants with seeds, seeds are essential for the life of the species. Pollination is required for seed formation. Most of the high-build plants produce two-sexual flowers. Two sexual flowers contain both pollen-producing stamens and carpels containing ovules.

Some plants are self-producing. In other words, they allow their own pollination and reproduction. If this is the case, why do so many plants have cross-pollination; that is, why does pollen transfer occur between individuals of the same species? The answer to this question is: Pollen exchange facilitates external reproduction, also known as an intrusion. So, why are external matches beneficial to plants?

In many people, marriage between very close relatives is prohibited. The reason for this is to avoid the negative effects of the combination of two genetically similar genomes. As such, many plants have mechanisms to avoid self-pollination. Because the product that results from self-fertilization has harmful genes that can result in weakness or death. In contrast, external pairing, in other words, the association of sperm and egg in genetically different organisms of the same species, is generally advantageous. One reason for this is that the number of harmful genes in this association is less. External pairing creates genetically more diversified offspring, which provides the flexibility to adapt to environmental changes and to expand into new habitats.

Bees Get Nectar, Pollen and Oil From the Flower in Return for the Pollination

Nectar is a solution of sugar, amino acids, and other substances. Nectar is produced by glands located in different parts of the flowers. The type of sugar (generally glucose, fructose or sucrose), amino acids, concentration and amount of nectar found in the flowers of plants of different species vary from one another. These differences are generally related to the requirements of the pollinating animals.

It is rich in pollen, protein, and lipid (in some pollen the protein content is between 16 and 60 percent and the lipid content is between 3 and 10 percent). The calorific value of the fat in pollen is twice the calorific value of fat found in carbohydrates. Flowers of plants such as poppy, peony, and kiwi produce only pollen as nutrients. Other flowers often offer nectar or oil, and some offer a mixture of various nutrients. This variability has a meaning; in which a portion of the pollinating mediator animals need only sugar nectar, while others also require protein and/or fat. The advertising power of flowers can be too much. Since bees providing pollination can show significant differences in color and odor determination, flowers show adaptation to attract the mediator that will provide the best pollination against these differences. The shape and other characteristics of the flower also play a specific role, but odor and color are the most important attraction factors.

Blooming plants use more than 700 compounds that emit odor. The odors of the flowers, which are very similar in appearance, can be very different. Flower odors can be analyzed for chemical composition. In addition, the flowers control the inlet of the pollinator with their shape and position. And pollinating bees can identify the location of the most productive food for themselves and keep it permanently in mind by learning the characteristics of their preferred flowers, such as colors, shapes, and fragrances. The pollinated bees differ in their sensation, behavior, size, and pollen carrying capacity. In return, flowers differ in color, fragrance, shape and other characteristics.

Bees and Flowers Pollinated by Bees

Bees have excellent performance in terms of pollination. Bees can even enter flowers that are hard to get into. The bees’ flower intelligence is also strong; in other words, they recognize flowers that give plenty of pollen and nectar (needed for their offspring). Therefore, there is a continuity in the visit of bees to flowers, which is beneficial for both plants and bees. Social bees transfer the location, direction, type and abundance of such flowers to other bees in the hive with their dances felt by other bees. Also, the smell of flowers they bring on is another way of expression.

Bees have medium-length tongues suitable for collecting nectar from many types of flowers. The nectar is carried in their honey stomach located in a certain part of the larynx and the enzymes here convert the nectar into honey. Some bees also carry pollen in their stomachs. Other bees use their legs to transfer pollen from the flowers to a hairy section of the abdomen or store it in basket-like compartments on their legs. Bees have excellent views that go beyond ultraviolet light, but they are red-blind. Their sense of smell also developed. With their antennas, they can even smell at concentrations that are 10 to 100 times weaker than people can smell.

Flowers pollinated by bees are usually blue, purple, lavender or white, but cannot be red-colored. Some of these flowers also have nectar guides that can be seen as dots and raise awareness in the bee eye. Most of the plants pollinated by bees are symmetrical on both sides. In other words, these flowers can be divided into two equal parts with a single plane. The bees first go to the ripe flowers at the bottom and then to the young flowers above and eventually find the best source of nectar and pollen. As can be expected, flowers that are compatible with bees provide both bee nectar and pollen in response. It contributes to pollination and fertilization of the plant in bees. Thus, both the extinction of the bee and the extinction of the plant have the opportunity to remain for tomorrow.

Use of Bees in Pollination

Bees collect pollen and nectar from the flowers to obtain nutrients, while pollinating many plants, including economically important plants. The list of plants pollinated by bees is quite fluffy. However, considering the indirect consequences of the situation, it is possible to reach far more advanced dimensions. For example, alfalfa pollinated by bees is used as animal feed and enters this system as meat and milk. Therefore, pollination with bees is a very important issue in terms of agricultural production. In addition, pollination with bees is essential for the ecosystem as it enables many plants in nature to grow.

McGregor (1973) points out an interesting point about insect pollination in food production. Rice is the main food in South-East Asia, which hosts two-thirds of the world’s population. On the other hand, half of the food produced in the USA is vegetable foods. 15% of this is dependent on pollination plants with insects. The other half of the total food produced is of animal origin. 50% of this rate is obtained by using plants pollinated with insects. As a result, one-third of the food produced in the United States is the result of pollination with insects, which equates to about $ 40 billion.

Ecology of Pollination with Bees

In the studies conducted on the quality of the environment, factors such as food production and health have to be examined more closely and the protection of resources should be approached more carefully. Since honey bees and other bees are of great importance for human life, the factors that threaten the existence of bees and beekeeping problems are closely related to humans. With the increase in the human population, the number of nutrients needed increases exponentially every year.

New settlement areas opened by the elimination of pollen and honey-giving plants. Factories, highways, pesticides used in agricultural spraying, bees’ own diseases, environmental pollution, base stations, bee feeding insufficiencies, beekeepers’ not complying with the hygiene rules and many other reasons have reached the level that will adversely affect the life of bees all over the world.

Ecology is the field of science that regulates the relationships between living things and their environment. Most of the 250,000 flowering plants around the world pollinate in complex relationships with bees, where flies, beetles, moths, butterflies, birds, and bats that are less important pollinators compared to bees also contribute to the process. Cross-pollination resulted in plants having flowers to attract bees and developing strategies to prevent insemination. The attention of the bees is due to the smell, especially the colors produced by the ultraviolet rays, ie the nectar guides.

When we think about the mechanisms such as the formation of single sexual individuals to prevent fertilization within plants, the development of male flowers in different positions, the development of female flowers in different positions, the maturation of the male and female organs in flowers are the first ones that come to mind first. Bumblebees and pollination are very effective agents. Megachile Rotundata and Nomia melanderi can be given as examples to this. There are many studies that honey bees are more effective in pollination by competing with wasps when there are wasps in the environment. Knowledge of the behavior of bees is useful for those working in pollination and honey production.

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Savaş Ateş

I like eating honey a lot. We have a huge interest in bees and how they make honey. I have visited honey farms. I have talked to a lot of honey sellers. I read a lot of books about them. I want to share my knowledge with you.

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