Bees are essential for the pollination of many herbs, spices and oils used in baking and cooking.
Fish, Meat, Eggs and Dairy products
Most animal feeds contain plant products which are highly reliant on bees for pollination. Without them
products would be much harder to produce and would be significantly more expensive to buy.
Livestock reared for meat and milk don’t just graze on grass and cereals. Alfalfa, Peas and Soya beans are primary ingredients in animal pellet feeds fed to
and Pigs. In addition Silage and hay containing Alfalfa, clover and other legumes is also an important feed given to cattle. These ingredients are a source of protein essential for muscle growth and production of milk.
Poultry feeds are largely made up of maize and cereals which are wind pollinated but include Soya bean, Alfalfa and Peas (a more sustainable source of protein than Soya) as a protein source. Many poultry feeds given to laying hens contain Calendula petals, the orange pigment encourages brighter yolk colour.
Many Free Range poultry farms include grazing mixtures high in edible herbs for the birds to graze on. These are pollinated by bees.
Cover crops of Sunflower, Kale and other tall herbs designed to provide cover and seeds for game birds and free range poultry rely on bees for pollination.
Fish and Aquaculture
Commercially reared fish are often fed on a diet of pelletized foods containing Soya bean, Lupine and Oil Seed Rape all pollinated by bees.
Bees essential for pollination of plants used in Animal feeds include the Alfalfa Leafcutter Megachile rotundata, Alkali Bee Nomia melenderi,
flower bees Anthophora
species which pollinate autumn sown beans and peas, Osmia
bees, Bumble Bees and the Honey Bee which pollinate Oil seed rape and brassicas used in cover crops and forage crops.
Calendula used in poultry feeds to encourage strong egg yolk colour are pollinated by a number of solitary bees including Lassioglossum Andrena
Fruits, Nuts and Vegetables
The majority of our fruits and vegetables are reliant on bees to some degree for pollination. Because we grow many crops outside of their native geographical regions it is often necessary to introduce honey bees to pollinate them but many crops grown outside their native regions will also be visited and pollinated by locally occurring wild bees.
Members of the
family include Tomato, Potatoes, Yoji berries and Aubergine along with Capsicum’s
like Peppers and Chillies are solely reliant on Bumble Bees for pollination. These plants require sonic vibrations of a specific frequency to dislodge the pollen grains from their tubular shaped Anthers. Throughout Europe millions of Buff Tailed Bumble Bee Bombus terrestris
colonies are reared each year to supply poly tunnels and glass houses which grow these fruits. Elsewhere in the world other Bumble Bees are used including the Eastern Bumble Bee Bombus impatiens
in North America.
such as Blue Berry and Cranberry are pollinated by a number of bees including commercial managed honey bees. Each year thousands of hives are transported to farms growing these crops but the honey bee is an inefficient pollinator of these fruits. Dense numbers of hives have to be brought in to ensure a good fruit set. Bumble bees are far more efficient at pollinating these fruits and are of significant value. Other bees valuable as a pollinator of Blueberries include the solitary ‘Blue Berry Bee’ Habropda labriosa. Osmia ribifloris
and Anthophora pilipes.
The Rusty Patch Bumble Bee Bombus afinis
and Megachile addenda
are also of commercial importance in the production of Cranberry.
Raspberry are pollinated by a number of short tongued Bumble Bees, Osmia
Bees and Honey Bees. In the UK the Buff Tailed Bumble Bee Bombus terrestris, Early Bumble Bee Bombus pratorum
and Tree Bumble Bee Bombus hypnorum
are important pollinators.
Blackberry are pollinated by a huge variety of insects including bees. Much of London’s honey comes from Bramble as the plant grows along the cities railway sidings and brownfield lands. Aside from Honey Bees other species to pollinate Blackberry include Bumble bees Megachile
Bees, Lassioglossum, Halictus, Hylaeus, Osma
the Blue Carpenter bee Ceratina cynea
and Xylocopa bees.
Strawberry are widely pollinated by Honey bees and Bumble Bees. The Bumble bee provides more efficient pollination of commercial strawberries leading to larger more uniform fruit set and are also easier to maintain inside poly tunnels and glass houses where Strawberry plants are grown under cover to encourage early cropping. In the open Strawberries also attract Lassioglossum, Andrena, Halictus, Osmia
Currants are pollinated predominantly by Queen Bumble Bees since they flower very early in the season.
are pollinated predominantly by Honey Bees but also pollinated by Early Bumble Bee and solitary species such as Andrena fulva.
Orchard Fruits rely heavily on both Honey Bees and wild bees for pollination. Honey bees are brought into orchards in large numbers to ensure saturation of the area with bees and a good fruit set however honey bees are fair weather creatures and only fly in warm conditions. Many Solitary bees and Bumble bees will fly in cooler conditions either earlier in the day before temperatures have risen or during cooler weather when honey bees are reluctant to fly. Evidence shows that the presence of bumble bees and solitary bees alongside honey bees ensures a greater fruit set with larger more uniform fruit developing.
or Mason bees pollinate many orchard fruit crops. Osmia lignaria
and Osmia rufra
are commercially important pollination of
species, Osmia cornuta
pollinates Almonds and Osmia cornifrons
pollinates Apples and Pears.
Bumble Bees also visit
Apples, Plums and Pears Quince
and Medlar. Andrena Cineraria
the Ashy Mining Bee also pollinates Cherries.
Citrus fruits like
Orange, Tangerine, Limes
Grape fruit rely on Honey bees and bumble bees for pollination. Whilst some varieties of citrus are self-fertile and capable of pollinating themselves without bees, fruit set and yields are greatly improved by the presence of bees.
Melons, Courgette, Pumpkin, Cucumber
and Squash. They rely on commercial Honey bees, Wild Bumble Bees, Anthophora
Bees and Halictus
bees for pollination. In the USA Squash bees pollinate pumpkin and squash.
Many tropical fruits
are commercially grown outside of their native range and are pollinated by managed honey bees. These fruits include Lyche, Avocado, Guava
and Passion Fruit.
fruit are pollinated predominantly by nocturnal moths but honey bees contribute to their pollination.
Many tropical fruits are also pollinated by Stingless Meliponini
bees and Carpenter Bees Xylocopa.
Pineapple do not require pollination to set fruit but they do to set seed. They are predominantly pollinated by Hummingbirds.
Tamarin is a tropical Legume producing long pods containing edible seeds with a pulpy texture. They have many culinary uses including as an ingredient in Worchester Sauce. They are pollinated primarily by the Giant Honey Bee Apis dorsata.
Coconut grow in the tropical regions and are pollinated by native stingless bees of the family Meliponini
as well as introduced Honey Bees.
Almonds are pollinated by Honey bees, Bumble Bees and Osmia
Bees such as Osmia cornuta. Almonds are the single biggest export of the state of California which grows over 810,000 acres of the crop in vast orchards in the Central Valley. Each year 81 Billion honey bees
from 1.6 Million hives pollinate over 2.5 Trillion Almond blooms
in what is the largest insect migration on the Planet.
Beekeepers truck these bees in from all across the United States on 6000 Lories.
Brazil Nuts are pollinated by colourful Orchid Bees Euglossini species. The females of these bees pollinate a variety of tropical plants as they collect pollen to feed their offspring. The males pollinate Orchid flowers which they visit to collect scented secretions they use to attract the females hence the common name Orchid Bees.
Only Euglossini and larger Carpenter bees Xylocopa
species can access the flowers as a robust body is needed to force entry into the tightly lipped flowers.
Peas and Beans are pollinated by a wide range of bees including Honey and Bumble Bees, Megachile
bees. The Hairy Footed Flower Bee Anthophora plumipes
is commercially important in the pollination of early flowering peas and beans sown in autumn in Southern and Eastern England
Vegetables don’t require pollination to develop the parts of the plant which we harvest and eat but in order to grow them in the first place we need viable seed to sow and bees are essential for this.
Cabbages, Mustard, Oil seed Rape, Turnip, Kale, Cauliflower, Broccoli
and Sprouts are pollinated by a wide range of insects including Anthophora
Bees, Honey Bees, Bumble Bees and Osmia
Carrots, Fennel, Parsnip
and Parsley are pollinated by many small solitary bees from Andrena, Colletes, Hylaeus, Nomada
species. Hoverflies and pollinating beetles also play a significant role in pollinating these vegetables. Larger pollinators like Honey Bees and Bumble bees are poor pollinators of these crops.
The Carrot Mining Bee Andrena nitidiuscula
is solely reliant on Carrot for pollen to feed its offspring.
Celery is pollinated by many Solitary bees as per carrot.
Beets include the
sugar Beet, Beetroot
and Leaf Beet
or Chard. These are all pollinated by Honey Bees and solitary bees.
Potatoes belong to the
Solanum family and are closely related to
Tomato. They are pollinated almost exclusively by Bumble Bees for seed.
Sweet Potatoare not very closely related to the potato and other Solanums at all and in fact are more closely related to Morning Glory and Bindweed in the Ipomoea
family. They are pollinated predominantly by Hummingbirds but also by bees. Bee species that specialises in Ipomoea flowers are Cemolobus ipomoeae
a unique bee being the only living member of its genus and sadly critically endangered having suffered massive declines in its range and abundance. Bees in the Melitoma
genus also pollinate these plants.
Most of our common culinary herbs are pollinated by solitary bees and Honey Bees and short tongues bumble bees. These include
Basil, Coriander, Oregano, Sage, Mint, Thyme, Lavender, Chives, Rosemary
and Bay Lorrel.
Saffron the most expensive herb comes from an autumn flowering crocus Crocus sativus. They are pollinated by bees which visit them to collect pollen to feed to their offspring.
Vanilla comes from the fruiting pods of a climbing tropical orchid which is pollinated by several species of tiny stingless bees of the Meliponini
genus. These bees are social forming a large colony not unlike a Honey bee and also produce honey. Stingless bees are valuable pollinators throughout tropical America. Outside its native range Vanilla is commonly grown in Madagascar where it is largely hand pollinated.
Cardamon is pollinated by Honey Bees.
Allspice Pimenta diotica
is grown commercially and pollinated by Honey Bees however coming from the west Indies and Central America where Honey bees are not native they are likely pollinated by the native solitary and stingless bees.
Nutmeg comes from a tropical tree in the magnolia family. Magnolias are ancient forms of flowering plant and pollinated by primitive pollinators the Thripes, Beetles and Flies.
Star Anise Illicium verum
is pollinated by Beetles.
Coffee comes from 2 species of plant. Arabica Coffee is a self fertile plant but pollination by Honey Bees improves yields and fruit set. Coffee robusta is an inferior coffee and dependent upon bees for pollination. 33 species of wild bees pollinate coffee beans.
Tea comes from an evergreen bush in the Camelia family. Its flowers are pollinated by bees.
Chocolate comes from the fruit of the Cocoa plant. Cocoa plantations support a wide variety of bees but appear to be mostly pollinated by tiny midges.