Honey Bee Pollination

Although honey bees are known for producing honey, they also perform another important task that benefits both nature and humans: they pollinate gardens, orchards, agricultural crops and wildlife habitats. Honey bee pollination occurs naturally when each honey bee worker forages for food and travels from one flowering plant to the next in search of pollen and nectar. Honey bees transfer pollen during this process and, in turn, they fertilize plants, enabling them to bear fruit.

Honey bee pollination is important in various plants, including cherries, apples, almonds, avocados, watermelon, cranberries, plums, pears, blueberries, cucumbers, cantaloupes, sunflowers and hundreds of other crops. Good honey bee pollination increases yields of both fruit and vegetables significantly. The quality and amount of yield depends largely on the level of pollination intensity provided by the honey bees. Improper pollination could lead to poor ovule fertilization, significant drops of fruit production and fruit imbalance.

While there are no standard guidelines for honey bee pollination, as they vary based on crops and conditions, a garden or other habitat with a high planting density will likely need an increased population of honey bees. In addition, honey bee colonies used primarily for pollination should be two-story hives and have a population of at least 30,000 individuals.

Successful pollination depends more upon the strength of a colony than the number of adult bees within it. The colony’s strength is based on the number of developing bees within. There must be sufficient numbers of young worker bees to tend to offspring and a larger population of eggs, larvae and pupae to sustain the survival of the colony.

Honey bee pollination is most successful when beekeepers utilize the proper placement of colonies. The number of honey bee hives and their level of activity also depend upon the type of crop being produced, as well as weather conditions and size and arrangement of trees. Hives require proper sunlight and suitable temperatures.