Queen of the Crops

Oct 7, 2008

We often hear of "cream of the crop," but the honey bee is  the "queen of the crops."

Honey bees are crucial to California’s $32 billion agriculture industry. They  pollinate more than 90 different fruit, nut and vegetables crops in the state, says Cooperative Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty.

Can you name a fruit or nut crop that absolutely depends on honey-bee pollination? So much so that no commerical crop could be produced without cross pollination?  No, not tomatoes! Here are some: almond, avocado, apple (most varieties), apricot (some varieties), cherry, chestnut, lychee fruit, peach (some varieties), pear (some varieties) plum, pomegranate, prune, sunflower, tangelo and tangerine.

Vegetable seed crops dependent on honey-bee pollination? Among them: asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, Chinese cabbage, collards, cucumber, kale, kohlrabi, leek, melon, mustard, onion, parsley, parsnip, pumpkin, radish rutabaga, squash, turnip and watermelon.

“One third of the American diet is pollinated by bees,” Mussen said.

California leads the nation in almond production, producing nearly all of the crop. “With around 660,000 acres currently in production, and branches bent nearly to the ground on many trees, the industry is due to set another record in nut production (1.46 billion pounds) and production income,” Mussen said. Each acre requires two hives for pollination.

By Kathy Keatley Garvey
Author - Communications specialist

Attached Images:

A pollen-packed honey bee curls up in a pomegranate blossom. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

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