What is pollination?

HIves set at the head of berry fields for pollination services. Sky is grey, hives are multicolored, berries are in bloom

We’ve all heard of it, but what is pollination?

Although the word pollination is mentioned often, very few people actually know what the pollination process consists of. The process of pollination is crucial to our food supply and according to the American Beekeeping Federation, “Honey bees contribute nearly $20 billion to the value of the of U.S. crop production.”

Pollination Process

  • Bees, birds and other winged creatures and insects, called “pollinators”, feed off of the nectar from plant material
  • As the pollinators travel from plant to plant and feed, pollen grains stick to them
  • The pollen grains then fall off, into another flower, as the pollinator continues to feed. Each plant the pollinator visits, receives pollen from the previously visited plant
  • The act of transferring pollen from the anthers of a flower to the stigma of the same or another flower is called pollination
  • This allows the plant to reproduce and maintain genetic diversity within its population
  • Fun fact: Environmental factors such as wind and water can also pollinate plants

Although some individuals are allergic to pollen and wish it never existed, without it, plant growth and biodiversity would not occur. Pollination is critical for food production and human livelihoods.

World Health Organization

The pollination process involves the transfer of pollen from the male part of a plant to the female part of the plant. First, pollen grains land on the stick stigma of the plant. After the pollen grains land on the stigma, a tube grows down through the length of the style or stalk connecting the stigma and ovary.

Bee Pollinating a flower covered in pollen

Once the pollen tube is complete, the pollen grain will send sperm cells from the grain down to the ovary. When the sperm cells reach the ovary and the egg cells, fertilization will occur, which will result in the formation of the seed. The seeds are released from the parent plant and are able to grow into a full plant thus, continuing the reproductive cycle using the method of pollination.

Did you know bees are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat?

Most crops, specifically grown for their produce, require pollination by insects. Bees are considered the main insect pollinators.

Bees on a sunflower close up

How do the bees play a part in this?

Pollen is fine to coarse powder containing microscopic grains surcharged from the male part of a flower known as the male cone. Foraging bees bring the pollen back to the hive, where they pass it off to other worker bees, who pack the pollen into cells with their heads. Bee pollen is the primary source of protein for the hive.

Nectar is a rich, sweet liquid secreted by plants. Nectar is produced by glands called nectaries. Nectaries can be located on any part of a plant, but the most familiar nectaries are those located in flowers. Nectar attracts pollinators, mainly bees, who aid in the pollination process by transferring the pollen that clings to their bodies from flower to flower. Nectar is the raw material used by the honeybee to produce honey. Honeybees gather nectar mainly from the flower blossoms and rarely gather nectars having less than 15% sugar.

How to treat a bee sting

Bees are responsible for pollinating 70 percent of the world’s horticulture and agricultural crops, meaning without them we would not have many of our most well-loved and nourishing fruits, vegetables, nuts, or seeds.

Crops including blueberries and cherries are 90 percent dependent on the honey bee population for pollination and almonds depend entirely on honey bees during its peek bloom time.

  • Apples
  • Alfalfa
  • Apricots
  • Allspice
  • Avocado
  • Bamboo
  • Black Currants
  • Blackberries
  • Beets
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccolo
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Buckwheat
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Cactus
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Cashews
  • Celery
  • Cherries
  • Clover
  • Cranberries
  • Coffee
  • Cotton
  • Cocoa
  • Coconut
  • Cucumber
  • Dates
  • Eggplant
  • Fennel
  • Flax
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Green Beans
  • Kidney Beans
  • Kiwi
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Lima Beans
  • Mangos
  • Mustad Seed
  • Nectarines
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Palm Oil
  • Papaya
  • Passion Fruit
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Persimmons
  • Peppers
  • Peppers
  • Plums
  • Pomegranates
  • Prickly Pear
  • Raspberries
  • Rose Hips
  • Safflower
  • Strawberries
  • Sunflowers
  • Sesame
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnips
  • Vanilla
  • Walnut
  • Watermelon

And many more.

So the next time you are complaining about pollen allergies, remember what the world would be like without it.

About the Author

kara

Kara waxes about the bees, creates and tests recipes with her friend Joyce, and does her best to share what she’s learned and continues to learn about the bees, honey, ingredients we use and more.

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