It has been said that one in every three bites of food we take depended on pollination.
Pollen is the male gamete of flowering plant, the equivalent of animal sperm.
It consists of tiny grains, identifiably different in shape and texture for each floral species.
They are tough, so tough that they can survive a long time, even preserved for centuries in swamp sediments and even rocks.
Scientists use the study of pollen, called palynology to trace the early history of plant life on earth.
Honey contains residual pollen.
No pollen grains means that it has been ultra-filtered or is false, ‘artificial honey’.
Study of pollen in honey is called melissopalynology, and is a means of identification of it’s floral source.
For fruit and vegetables to develop and seeds to form, pollen has to be transferred from the male part of the flower, the stamen, to the female stigma of another flower of the same species.
Self pollination results in poor quality as nature demands diversity for maintenance of health and strength.
Plants rely on different methods of transfer.
Some rely on wind, others on gravity or even water movement, but the majority depend on animal life.
But by far the most important are insects which contribute 90 percent of animal pollination.
Sources of vitamin C and lycopene (an important antioxidant) are 90% dependent on insect pollination.
By far the most important insect is the European honey bee, Apis mellifera.
More than half of food crops depend on the honeybee and with the current agricultural policy of growing huge mono-crops of grains and fruit, there is a dependence on commercial beekeepers to supply hundreds of healthy bee colonies at the critical time.
It is true, of course, that Australian flora were successfully pollinated before the advent of the European honey bee in 1822, but there were no such agricultural crops then and it is well accepted that no other pollinator could do the job.
The often repeated statement that if the honey bee becomes extinct, mankind will follow within a few years may well be true.
And the widespread use of insecticides suggests that mankind is oblivious of that possibility.
It is salutary to reflect on the symbiosis between flowering plants and the honey bee – they evolved together, they depend on each other.
Pollen is the source of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals in the diet of the bee.