Honey Bees and Flowers

Honey bees and flowers have a longstanding relationship. For millions of years honey bees have been major pollinators of flowers and, therefore, the plants producing the flowers have relied on the bees. The goal of the plant is reproduction. The bees help accomplish this by unwittingly transferring pollen, a plant’s male sperm cells, from one flower to another. Without pollination, many plants would not be able to procreate and eventually would die out.

Humans benefit from this relationship though crop and honey production. Many of the crops people consume are pollinated by honey bees. Many growers maintain honey bee colonies for this very reason. Without pollination, the plants would not produce fruits and vegetables. Besides pollination, honey bees extract nectar along with the pollen from the flowers. The nectar is transported back to the nest where, through a process, it is converted into honey.

Flowers often attract bees through their color and the promise of a sweet nectar reward. People often think flower color is for our aesthetics but the reality is it often is to attract bees and other pollinators. Many flowers produce colors that fall into the ultraviolet range which are not visible to humans but are visible to bees. Flower shape can play a role as well. Some flowers are shaped for specific pollinators like bees where the pollen carrying structure on the plant is positioned perfectly to deposit pollen on the insect as it crawls into the flower. Plants also can use fragrances and odors to draw bees to them.