Biological Diversity: Bees

in Biology/Gardening/Nature by

 

Today, in this first in a series on biological diversity, your publisher’s attention is drawn to bees. He is fatally allergic to bee-sting, but that does not prevent him from writing about creatures that are so vital to plant growth here on the Sunshine Coast and all around the world.

A friend and beekeeper once told me that of every ten bites of food we take in a day, three depend on bees. Virtually every plant and crop variety relies on pollinating insects – and bees are prime. Think about the vegetables and grains you rely on: tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, nuts, seeds, legumes, the grasses and hay that feed livestock . . . all of these and countless others rely on bees.

A primer: To reproduce and produce seeds for the next generation, a plant must be pollinated, fertilized. What this requires is the transport of pollen from the male part of a flower to the female part. This results in the fertilization of plant ovaries and, thus, the propagation of the species. Each new generation, which is the result of genetic recombination, submits to the law of natural selection. Those that are fittest to their environment survive and propagate; those whose characteristics don’t measure up, don’t. Natural selection preserves and encourages genetic diversity, which is a good thing.

(Genetic monoculture works in direct opposition to natural selection, and will be a topic of a future discussion.)

Bees are great pollinators, because they spend most of their time gathering pollen. This source of protein is used to feed their young. But, as they collect pollen (mainly from the same flower or plant species), bees inadvertently transfer genetic material between plants. Thus, they create new plant generations.

Bees are not selfless. Evolution has seen to it that these cross-pollinators – the mechanism for plant propagation – are rewarded with nectar, which is a hydration source loaded with sugar.

Bees are declining, and this is mainly due to the human spread of pesticides in their natural habitats. Not everyone can maintain a beehive on their property, but everyone can stop using pesticides in their gardens – and encourage others to do the same.

Biological/genetic diversity has created the wonders of our natural world. This is the first in a series of short pieces that will deal with pressing issues and threats to that diversity – ones that we can engage and improve upon.

Please comment and share if you have an opinion or information on anything you have read.

Next up: monoculture

 

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