If you want to keep bees in order to pollinate crops, here are some things that you should know.
The process of pollination is a simple one. The male part of the plant, the stamen, makes pollen, which is used to fertilize the stigma, the top portion of the pistil, or female plant part. This is a process that has been going on for thousands of years in some form or another, but not without help.
Unlike humans or animals, most plants can’t reproduce at will on their own. The stamen can produce pollen, but that pollen has to be moved to the pistil. Water and wind are two ways in which pollen can be transferred; birds, animals, and insects are another.
Pollination in Farming
When it comes to pollination and its use in farming, wind, water, birds and large animals are virtually useless. They may do some pollinating, whether farmers want them to or not, but they aren’t reliable. A farmer’s crops cannot wait for days or weeks for a windy day. Nor can farmers train birds or animals to rub against a plant and then move to another and pollinate it.
So, Why Do Bees Pollinate Willingly?
As with any other work, bee pollination is done for one reason and one reason only: the bees get rewarded for their efforts. In this case, the payoff is nectar, which the bees use to make honey.
In fact, bees are so attracted to nectar, which is a mixture of water and sugar, they find flowers with high levels irresistible. In the process of harvesting nectar, the pollen attaches itself to their hairy bodies. Then, as the bee moves from plant to plant, pollination takes place.
Directing the Bees
Admittedly, bees can’t really be trained to pollinate. Science hasn’t developed that far yet. However, there are plenty of ways to direct the bees. For example, worker bees tend to travel about one to two miles (three kilometers) from their hive. So, farmers can set up a hive within that range of their crops.
Bees also tend to travel up to get around obstacles. So, trees and other objects can often be used to sort of guide the flight path of the bees. In that way, farmers and beekeepers can work together to direct bees to pollinate crops.
Personal versus Professional Uses
The impact your bees can have on pollination depends on whether you are keeping them for personal or professional use. If you are keeping them just to make honey for you and your family, you may want to plant a garden. That will give your bees a food source and could also result in you getting some great flowers and vegetables in the bargain.
Having a personal garden can be cheaper and more convenient than buying all of your food at the grocery store. It also gives you a healthy alternative to some of the pesticide and additive-filled food sold in stores.
On the other hand, if you want to keep bees professionally, you may find it lucrative to rent your hives to area farmers during pollination periods. It’s amazing how much pollination a few honeybee hives can handle in a short period of time. If you can make money, get honey, and do your part to help local farmers grow crops, that’s a great way to both make a living and make your area and the world as a whole a better place.
A Helping Hand
Honeybees can also be great for pollinating areas that are a bit out of the way or subject to odd weather patterns. For example, the feral bees in the area may stay in hiding during cold weather, but certain honey bee types are more resilient. Also, you have the ability to bring your bees to a farm on a warm day when they are more active.
Feral bees come and go as they please, which means that pollination may not take place. With a helping hand from your honeybees, plants and flowers that otherwise wouldn’t have a chance can easily reproduce.
Fighting the Decrease in Pollination
Pollination, particularly in North America, has been experiencing a rapid decline over the last several years. Changing weather patterns and an increase in disorders and problems within bee colonies are to blame. In fact, Colony Collapse Disorder has caused several beekeepers to give up on the business of beekeeping entirely.
Yet, many beekeepers are stepping up to the challenge and doing anything they can to protect their hives. In so doing, they are protecting the delicate process of pollination and preserving the future for everyone, including the honeybees.
If you want to do your part as a beekeeper to fight the decrease in pollination, you’re in luck. There are plenty of ways that you can help, with even one hive of honeybees. If you have multiple hives, that’s even better. All you have to do is transport them to different farms as needed. Just be sure to do so at night, when the bees are less active.
As a beekeeper, you also need to “bee” aware of any pollination problems with your hives or in your general area. The best way to stay informed is to inspect your hive often. If it looks unhealthy, don’t transport it to any local farms. In fact, it’s best to transport not your local bees too far out of your local home area, even if they appear to be healthy. Also, keep informed on the latest beekeeping news in your area. That way you will know quickly if there are any cases of viruses or hive-invading insects anywhere near your home.