What honey bees really do for us

What does a bee-less world look like? Einstein is supposed to have said humanity would have four years once the bees were gone. What would those four years be like?

Leaving aside factors like agricultural collapse in favor of the personal, say we like delicious, succulent watermelon. We get our vines all planted and they`re growing like sixty. And we even get some fruit. So, what`s the flap all about?

Why, that watermelon is tasteless. It`s nothing like what a watermelon is supposed to be. That`s if the fruit even develops properly into the fat round shapes we associate with a watermelon ripe to bursting.

Notice how bees frequent a flower. The same flower that`s been visited and presumably emptied of nectar by a bee will still be visited multiple times by yet more bees. And not just honey bees but wasps, bumble bees, and butterflies. And this activity keeps up for weeks. Why is that?

A watermelon is made tasty by its hundreds of seeds. Each one of those seeds needs to be pollinated. That means the watermelon requires many, many visits from bees bearing pollen to develop the fruit we know as watermelon. The growth of pollinated seeds within the watermelon sweetens and ripens it. Without pollination, the fruit would remain small and shapeless.

This is also true of cantaloupes, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, apples, cherries, oranges, peaches, and kiwifruit. So, in those four years we could not enjoy these fruits as we always have.

We`d still have pineapples and bananas.

We`d have some vegetables. Corn only needs wind for pollination. But many other vegetables would suffer the same fate as watermelons.

Cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, avocadoes and some peas and beans need bees. Without bees the produce will often lose taste and won`t keep well. Also, when eaten, they could cause excessive flatulence or indigestion.

What about seeds for replanting? Cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, collards, and mustards all need the work of bees to make seed.

These vegetables constitute the most colorful and therefore the most healthful foods on earth. Human health would plummet.

Corn, bananas and pineapples. That`s it. There wouldn`t be any butter for that corn. There wouldn`t be many oils either.

What if we don`t like vegetables anyway and figure we can live on meat? Cows, pigs, goats and chickens need grass or hay, and pasture grasses and forage legumes need bees to make seed. So, there`d be no milk, cheese, cream, butter or meat. No fish either because once the meats were gone the fish would harvest rapidly.

What clothes would we wear in a bee-less world? We wouldn`t have cotton so there`d be no denim. Nor would we have many of the other things we use cotton for such as towels, cool summer dresses and shirts, sheets, blankets and bandages.

There wouldn`t be any coffee either, or tea. The coffee houses would all be empty; the tables deserted.

It will be a different world without bees, difficult to recognize.

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