The Importance of Honey Bees

Updated: May 28




IPollination is vital to the approximately 250,000 species of flowering plants that depend on the transfer of pollen from flower anther to stigma to reproduce. The anther is the top-most part of the stamen, the flower’s male reproductive portion. Normally made up of four pollen sacs, the anther produces and releases pollen. The stigma, the top of the flower’s female reproductive part, is covered in a sticky substance that catches and traps the pollen grains.

Depending on the specific plant species, the transfer of pollen from anther to stigma is achieved by wind, gravity, water, birds, bats, or insects. Some plants, such as pine trees and corn, produce light pollen that’s easily blown by wind. Other plants make heavy, sticky pollen that’s not easily blown from flower to flower. These plants rely on other agents, insects for example, to transfer the pollen.

Upon entering a flower, an insect such as a honey bee, brushes against the pollen on the outside of the anther and carries it to the stigma. Sometimes, the pollen grains only need to reach the stigma of the same flower or another flower on the same plant. But often, the pollen must travel to the stigma of a flower on a different plant (but same plant species).

Pollen, often called “bee bread,” is the bees’ main source of protein. Pollen also provides the bees with fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins. The protein in pollen is necessary for hive growth and young bee development.

Depending on the season, weather, and availability of nectar- and pollen-bearing blossoms, the size of a honey bee colony varies from 10,000 to 100,000 bees. A typical size colony, made up of about 20,000 bees, collects about 125 pounds of pollen per year.1 Bees carry the pollen in specialized structures on their hind legs called “pollen baskets,” or corbiculae (meaning “little baskets” in Latin). A honey bee can bring back to the colony a pollen load that weighs about 35 percent of its body weight.

In a single day, one worker bee makes 12 or more trips from the hive, visiting several thousand flowers. On these foraging trips, the bee can travel as far as two to five miles from the hive. Although honey bees collect pollen from a variety of flowers, a bee limits itself to one plant species per trip, gathering one kind of pollen.

Neonicotinoids which are found in pesticides (plant seeds are soaked in this chemical and stay in the plant as it grows) harm honeybees by attacking their nervous system, which can be another explanation for the disappearance of the Honeybee colonies.

New research has discovered that male honey bees exposed to neonicotinoids have almost 40% less live sperm than the other honeybees who haven't been exposed.

The following is a list foods and the percentage that it relies on bee pollination:

Almonds - 100%

Apples - 90%

Asparagus - 90%

Avocado - 90%

Broccoli - 90%

Blueberry - 90%

Onion - 90%

Cherry - 80%

Cucumber - 80%

Celery - 80%

Plum/Prune - 65%

Watermelon - 65%

Tangerine - 45%

Lemon - 20%

Cotton - 20%

Peanut - 2 %

Grape - 1%

A Whole Foods Market in Rhode Island, as a part of a campaign to highlight the importance of honeybees, temporarily removed from its produce section all the food that depends on pollinators. Of 453 items, 237 vanished, including apples, lemons, zucchini and other squashes.


The following is a list of crop plants that are pollinated by honey bees:


Okra: Honey bees, Solitary bees

Kiwifruit: Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees

Onion: Honey bees, Solitary bees, Blow flies

Cashew: Honey bees, Stingless bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees, Butterflies, Flies, hummingbirds

Celery: Honey bees, Solitary bees, Flies

Strawberry tree: Honey bees, Bumblebees

Carambola, Starfruit: Honey bees, Stingless bees

Beet: Hover Flies, Honey bees, Solitary bees seed

Mustard: Honey bees, Solitary bees

Rapeseed: Honey bees, Solitary bees

Broccoli: Honey bees, Solitary bees

Cauliflower: Honey bees, Solitary bees

Cabbage: Honey bees, Solitary bees

Brussels sprouts: Honey bees, Solitary bees

Chinese cabbage: Honey bees, Solitary bees

Turnip, Canola: Honey bees, Solitary bees, Flies

Pigeon pea, Cajan pea, Congo bean: Honey bees, Solitary bees, Carpenter bees

Chilli pepper, Red pepper, Bell pepper, Green pepper: Honeybees, Stingless bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees, Hover flies

Papaya : Honey bees, thrips, large sphinx moths, Moths, Butterflies

Safflower: Honey bees, Solitary bees

Caraway: Honey bees, Solitary bees, Flies

Chestnut: Honey bees, Solitary bees

Watermelon: Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees

Tangerine: Honey bees, Bumblebees

Orange, Grapefruit, Tangelo: Honey bees, Bumblebees

Coconut: Honey bees, Stingless bees

Coffea spp. Coffea arabica, Coffea canephora: Honey bees, Stingless bees, Solitary bees

Coriander: Honey bees, Solitary bees

Crownvetch: Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees

Azarole: Honey bees, Solitary bees

Cantaloupe, Melon: Honey bees, Squash bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees

Cucumber: Honey bees, Squash bees, Bumblebees, Leafcutter bee, Solitary bees

Squash (plant), Pumpkin, Gourd, Marrow, Zucchini: Honey bees, Squash bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees

Guar bean, Goa bean: Honey bees

Lemon: Honey bees

Lime: Honey bees

Carrot: Flies, Solitary bees, Honey bees

Hyacinth bean: Honey bees, Solitary bees

Longan: Honey bees, Stingless bees

Persimmon: Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees

Cardamom: Honey bees, Solitary bees

Loquat: Honey bees, Bumblebees

Buckwheat: Honey bees, Solitary bees

Feijoa: Honey bees, Solitary bees

Fennel: Honey bees, Solitary bees, Flies

Strawberry: Honey bees, Stingless bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees (Halictus spp.), Hover flies

Sunflower: Bumblebees, Solitary bees, Honey bees

Flax: Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees

Lychee : Honey bees, Flies

Lupine: Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees

Macadamia: Honey bees, Stingless bees, Solitary bees, Wasps, Butterflies

Acerola: Honey bees, Solitary bees

Apple: Honey bees, orchard mason bee, Bumblebees, Solitary bees, Hover flies

Mango: Honey bees, Stingless bees, Flies, Ants, Wasps

Alfalfa: Alfalfa leafcutter bee, Alkali bee, Honey bees

Rambutan: Honey bees, Stingless bees, Flies

Sainfoin: Honey bees, Solitary bees

Avocado:Stingless bees, Solitary bees, Honey bees

Lima bean, Kidney bean, Haricot bean, Adzuki bean, Mungo bean, String bean, Green bean: Honey bees, Solitary bees

Scarlet runner bean: Bumblebees, Honey bees, Solitary bees, Thrips

Allspice: Honey bees, Solitary bees

Apricot: Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees, Flies

Sweet Cherry: Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees, Flies

Sour cherry: Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees, Flies

Plum: Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees, Flies

Almond: Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees, Flies

Peach, Nectarine: Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees, Flies

Guava: Honey bees, Stingless bees, Bumblebees, Solitary

Pomegranate: Honey bees, Solitary bees, Beetles

Pear: Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees, Hover flies

Black currant, Red currant: Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees

Rose hips, Dogroses: Honey bees, Bumblebees, Carpenter bees, Solitary bees, Hover flies

Boysenberry: Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees

Raspberry: Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees, Hover flies

Blackberry: Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees, Hover flies

Elderberry: Honey bees, Solitary bees, Flies, Longhorn beetles

Sesame: Honey bees, Solitary bees, Wasps, Flies

Rowanberry: Honey bees, Solitary bees, Bumblebees, Hover flies

Hog plum: Honey bees, Stingless bees

Tamarind: Honey bees

Clover (not all species): Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees

White clover: Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees

Alsike clover: Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees

Crimson clover: Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees

Red clover: Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees

Arrowleaf clover: Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees