It might be said that, ‘you can’t have one without the other’ when addressing the subject of nectar-producing flowers and honeybees. Evolution has provided a complementary arrangement whereby both are dependent on each other.

Nectar-producing flowers provide honeybees with a food supply in the form of nectar and pollen. The same applies to the myriad of other bee species. The honeybees collect nectar and pollen from a large pool of flowering plants. This gives them security and variety in their source of food, as well as minimising the possibility of starvation or – in worst case scenario – extinction. Such a fate is more likely to befall those solitary bees which are specific to one particular type of flowering plant, where the extinction of one party will lead to the extinction of the other.

It cannot be assumed that there are sufficient nectar and pollen producing flowers available for honeybees or bees in general. The verges, wild areas and hedgerows are the bee’s larder. The most insignificant looking flower, alone and peeping from the side of a wall, will have its pollinator. It too makes its contribution to the environment. Gerard Manley Hopkins, in his poem Inversnaid summed up what should be done with the wild areas when he wrote:

What would the world be, once bereft

Of wet and of wildness, let them be left,

O let them be left, wildness andwet;

Long live the weeds

and the wilderness yet

Healthy bee

The honeybee, through fidelity with flower species and their large numbers, contribute vastly to the pollination of a large cohort of flowers – thus ensuring their continuance to exist. This is especially important in the production of food crops.

It is said that ‘variety is the spice of life’. In relation to the pollens collected by honeybees, it is the variety of these that are important for good gut health and, ultimately, a healthy bee. Where bees are stressed as a result of the lack of pollens, pollens of poor quality or those contaminated by pesticides, their overall health suffers, leaving them unproductive.

The honeybee is endowed with all the necessary body appendages for pollination. Her hairy body is her prime asset. Her bifurcated hairs are ideal for trapping pollen grains and transferring them to other flowers of the same species, thus fulfilling the pollination process.

Since nectar is the reward to bees in return for pollination, the plant must be able to source its nutrients from the soil if it is to produce flowers capable of supplying a sufficient quantity attractive to bees.

Beekeepers pay a lot of attention to the volume of pollen stored in the beehives. Lack of or a shortage leads to a reduction in brood production, with consequent negative impact on plant pollination as well as honey production.

Pollens vary in colour depending on the type of flower producing them. Those with a knowledge of pollen colours associated with the flowers of different plants can observe bees at the hive entrance carrying pollen loads which give a clue as to which plants bees are visiting.

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