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Beyond the Rows is a Monsanto Company blog focused on one of the world’s most important industries, agriculture. Monsanto employees write about Monsanto’s business, the agriculture industry, and the farmer.
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The Importance of Bees to Agriculture

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It’s National Pollinator Week in the U.S., and yesterday Dr. Ed Spevak, curator of the St. Louis Zoo’s Invertebrate Program and director for the zoo’s Wildcare Institute Center for Native Pollinator Conservation, spoke to Monsanto employees on one of the most important groups of pollinators – bees.

Spevak is an expert in native bees, but his presentation covered bees native to North America (like the bumble bee) and bees native to other world regions (like the honey bee, brought to North America by the Pilgrims).

We learned a few things about bees:

More than 70 percent of flowering plants require insects for pollination, and bees are the most important pollinators.

There are than 20,000 species of bees around the world.

At least 12 viruses are found in honey bees and native bees.

How a flower smells to a bee can be diminished by pollution.

We learned a few things about bees and agriculture, too:

Seventy-five percent of crop species require pollinators. Some $29 billion in crops in the U.S. are pollinated, and the global number is $217 billion.

One out of every three mouthfuls of food and drink we consume depends upon pollinators.

Almonds are almost completely dependent upon pollinators and especially honey bees; 80 percent of the world’s almond production is in California.

One significant threat to pollinators in general and bees in particular is indiscriminate use of pesticides in home gardens. “Home gardeners hate Japanese beetles,” Spevak said, “and want to spray them immediately. One of the best things you can do with Japanese beetles is pick them off the plant, drop them into a cup of water, freeze the water to kill the beetles and then let it thaw for birds to eat the beetles.”

Home gardeners can help farmers by planting a few of the right kinds of plants in their gardens, perennials such as blue false indigo and monarda.

Later this week, we’ll continue our posts on National Pollinator Week with some of the serious problems pollinators currently face.

I’m still thinking about freezing those Japanese beetles. I’m of the “pluck and stomp” persuasion myself.

Resources:

Bees in America: How the Honey Bee Shaped a Nation by Tammy Hood.

The St. Louis Zoo’s Center for Native Pollinator Conservation.

The Xerces Society.

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