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Michael Wheeler: Pollen gives people itchy eyes as well as honey, fruit and flowers

POSTED: April 20, 2017 5:45 p.m.

If the warm temperatures and abundance of azalea blooms were not enough to clue you in that spring is here, itchy eyes and sinus pressure definitely have done so.

The pollen in the air is a source of ill will to many as they suffer through most of the spring. However, for honey bees and other pollinators, the world has turned into a mega grocery store.

During this time of year, bees work hard to take advantage of the pollen. It is from nectar and pollen that they are able to make honey and bee bread.

Honey is made from the nectar that comes from the flowers. Bees use honey the same way we do. It is a source of carbohydrates. Bees tap into it on a daily basis for energy. Without it, the hive would die within weeks.

Pollen also is made into bee bread and is the most nutritionally diverse food bees make. It has everything needed for survival and to grow fast-developing larvae. There are fats, minerals, vitamins and proteins in bee bread.

To me, it is amazing bees can do all of this work. They are like farmers by taking raw material and make it into food.

Both honey and bee bread supply young bees with essential food to grow and maintain the colony. The food produced from pollen also is critical for the hive’s survival through the winter months.

While bees’ survival is dependent on pollen, plants depend on bees for survival as well. It is definitely a “give and take” relationship that has been developed over the past few million years.

For fruit or seeds to be produced, flowers need pollen transferred to other parts of same flower, moved to a different flower or plant. Therefore, the bees give the plants “legs” in a sense so pollination is a success.

Luckily, the plant makes enough pollen to make seeds and fruit for the flowers and enough pollen for the bees.

As you eat your lunch today, think about the fact that one third of the food on your plate would not be there if bee pollination did not occur. Agriculture in the United States is very dependent on it, especially vegetables, fruits and nut crops.

Bee pollination is worth more than $29 billion annually to agriculture. Pollination improves yield and quality of the food produced.

Have you ever seen an oddly shaped cucumber? Typically that is a result of poor pollination.

As the world’s population continues to rise, we are going to have to figure how to get more out of the crops we grow, but do it on the same amount of land we have in ag production. Insuring the health of pollinators is a huge step to reach that goal.

So the next time you see a bee buzzing around you, just say “Hi” and “thank you.”

Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, http://ugaextension.org/county-offices/hall.html. His column appears biweekly and on www.gainesvilletimes.com.

 



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