We know that bees and other insects pollinate plants, but did you know that most of our food supply depends on this? This even includes our meat products, as the domestic cows, pigs and poultry which end up in our plate have been fed with corn, maize or other plant based materials.
Pollination, which in scientific terms, involves the transfer of pollen from the male parts of a flower (stamen),to the female parts of another (stigma), is usually caused by insects moving from flower to flower, transferring the sticky pollen grains as they go. In some cases the wind can transfer pollen. But for the most part, its those tiny, hard working insects, our bees, hoverflies, beetles, butterflies and even wasps (yes, wasps are useful!), which do that critically important job.
And when we look at this on a large scale, we see how important this is. In Europe, over three quarters of food crops depend on pollinators. Its just as important for our flowers – in temperate regions, over 75% of flowering plants need those insects to transfer pollen and in tropical areas its even more – around 94% depend on pollinators! In tropical areas, even hummingbirds transfer pollen between flowers!
In Europe, most agriculture has depended heavily on honeybees, which are under immense strain from disease, loss of habitat and use of pesticides by farmers, all of which lead to lower bee numbers, lower levels of pollination and lower crop yields – which of course, increases the cost of food. Something we are all feeling at the moment.
So what to do? Pollinator friendly farming practices, such as a reduction in the use of pesticides and integration of wildflower meadows and hedgerows into agriculture will make a huge difference. A diversity of planting is best, with a range of wildflowers. You too can make a difference by ensuring gardens and parks dedicate land to pollinator friendly planting. You can find more information at https://www.buglife.org.uk/