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AGRICULTURE REPORT - Bees and Beekeeping, Part 3 - 2003-05-27

Broadcast: May 27, 2003

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Bees not only produce honey and wax, they also provide an important service to farmers. Many crops require bees to pollinate them.

Bees gather sweet liquid called nectar from flowers. As they do this, the reproductive material of the flowers, pollen, sticks to the bee. Pollen travels from plant to plant this way.

More than ninety different fruits, vegetables, nuts and seed crops depend on bees for reproduction. Also, many flowers grown for their beauty need bees to pollinate them.

In the United States, the secretary of agriculture appoints industry leaders to the National Honey Board. This group provides production information about the honey and beekeeping business. One report used by the board studies the use of bees to pollinate crops. The report says bees pollinated about fourteen-thousand-six-hundred million dollars in crops in two-thousand.

Selling the services of bees as pollinators is also an important business. In the state of California, the almond-growing industry has required more bee colonies for pollination. The valuable nuts are an increasing export crop for California.

Bees pollinate almost all almond and apple trees. Vegetables like broccoli, carrots, celery and onions require bee pollination. Experts say even crops that do not require bee pollination can be increased with the help of bees. Also, the quality of many crops depends on the amount of pollination they receive. Crops like apples can grow unevenly if bees do not provide enough pollen for good reproduction.

Pollinated crops supply much of the vegetable fats in the human diet. As much as one-third of all food products are directly or indirectly linked to bee pollinated crops. Bee pollination is a central activity in the food supply chain.

The United States is estimated to have more than two-million-five-hundred-thousand colonies used to pollinate crops. Between two and four colonies are needed to pollinate one hectare of most crops. Farmers pay between forty and seventy dollars for the use of each colony.

Today, many beekeepers see pollination as a more important activity than producing honey. Many farmers see bee pollination as a good investment because it improves the quality and productivity of their crops.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter.