Let’s get to know these little creatures who form 90 per cent of pollinator troupes and are pivotal to our existence
Bees and other pollinators, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), contribute between $235 billion and $577 billion to the annual global food production through pollination.
A world without bees can devoid humans of their favourite cup of coffee, their meals, salads, their almond- and honey-topped chocolates and strawberry ice-creams. Their absence would remove a host of nutritious food from our diets, including apples, strawberries, pumpkins, potatoes, onions, cauliflowers, carrots, papayas, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, almonds, sunflowers, cocoa and coffee.
In the pursuit of nectar, pollinators, such as bees, butterflies and flies, move between flowers transferring pollen grains from one plant to another in a process known as pollination.
Every third bite we take comes from an animal-pollinated plant and bees form 90 per cent of the troupes that pollinate plants. Pollination is responsible for three- to five-fold increase in the fruit yield of many plants, including apples, oranges, mangoes, avocados and several vegetables. But in the recent past, dwindling bee numbers in different parts of India have been reported.
To be able to save them, we first need to know about them. So here are 10 facts about these little creatures, pivotal to our existence, and ways to help them survive.
1. There are 20,000 species of wild bees in the world that contribute to pollination. Other pollinators are some species of butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles, birds, bats and other vertebrates.
2. Pollination contributes to one-third of the world’s agricultural crop production and pollinators can increase crop yield by 24 per cent in small diverse farms.
3. Pollinators enhance food quality too. A well-pollinated plant develops a larger and more uniform fruit. Round apples, for instance, imply sufficient pollination.
4. More than 40 per cent of invertebrate pollinator species – particularly bees and butterflies – face extinction.
5. Pollinators contribute to crops that provide biofuels (canola and palm oils), fibers (cotton), medicines, forage for livestock and construction materials.
6. Some species also provide materials such as beeswax for candles and musical instruments, and arts and crafts.
7. Globally, 81 million hives produce 1.6 million tonnes of honey, around a third of which is traded across national borders.
8. Pollinators are losing appropriate natural, non-toxic environments to survive. Single-cropping, use of pesticides, and higher temperatures associated with climate change all pose problems for populations and, by extension, the quality of food we grow. Reduction in pollination can also pose an immediate threat to our food and nutrition.
9. People should leave some areas under natural habitation, promote hedge rows, flower trees and shrub plant diversity, intercropping, and try to be less dependent on toxic chemicals and pesticides. This will better food quality and quantity.
10. Promoting beekeeping among farmer communities as an additional source of livelihood could also prove to be helpful.
(Inputs by Food and Agriculture Organization)
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