How Trees Benefit Bees


We are hugely reliant on the pollination work of bees for our food production. This enthusiast's account provides an insight into a fascinating cycle.

It is very unusual to have to wait for more than a very short while on a warm, sunny day, before a honey bee is seen visiting some flower; it can be as early as mid February through to the late autumn.

Bees do this to gather food - pollen and nectar, their proteins and carbohydrates. Nectar is a watery solution of sugars, mainly sucrose and it is after the action of enzymes, added both by the foragers on their back to the hive and then by those 'house bees' who recieve the nectar there, that a transformation takes place; so that by the time it is stored away in the comb, water content is down to 18%, the sucrose broken down to roughly equal parts of glucose and fructose - making up to 50% with a percentage point or two of trace elements and vitamins. It has now become honey.

It is this food gathering activity that affects pollination: honey bees are 'master' pollinators. The hairiness of their bodies picks up pollen grains from the dehisced anthers and, cruicially, they tend to move to a flower of the same kind i.e. apple to apple, carrying that pollen and depositing it on a receptive stigma of the same or another flower, this leading eventually to seed and fruit development.

There is no substitute for strong colonies, headed by young queens to pollinate cultivated crops. Such colonies can be moved and, as long as the move is more than about 3 miles, they quickly reorient and can be seen in as short a time up to thirty minutes after release from the hive, bringing in pollen. The practice of moving colonies to work top fruit, oil seed rape, field beans, borage, phacelia and raspberries for example is known as migratory bee-keeping and when the flowering of such crops is over, the colonies are moved to other flora.

Many garden plants are visited by honey bees, adding to the interest. Ornamental malus and prunus along with numerous perennials and annuals are valuable sources. Though not plentiful enough in an individual garden to have a bearing on honey yield, it is suprising what can be gathered from those residential areas with good gardens.


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