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Paul D. Haemig

As I walked through prosperous farmland, I saw them everywhere
visiting crop flowers, buzzing through the air.
They came from nearby woods seeking nectar to feed
They pollinated crops and set the flowers to seed.

The seeds were sold by farmers to pay their many bills
to send their kids to college and enjoy life's many thrills.
Merchants that received their payments prospered well too,
they bought dream vacation homes in Honolulu.

Pollinated food crops feed the human race
Their nourishment forms civilization's base.
Most are pollinated by various wild bees,
but some rely on other animals or a windy breeze.

Managed honeybees, we know, pollinate crops too,
but not nearly as many as wild bees do.
With countless honeybees now diseased or Africanized,
their colonies are fewer and their keepers terrorized.

The next day I passed other farms, those of ignorant men,
who had developed all their lands, even hill and glen.
To maximize profits, they'd plowed all they had acquired,
and so destroyed the habitats that wild bees required.

Still others had sprayed their crops with too many insecticides
and so killed not only insect pests but pollinators besides.
They'd even used strong herbicides to kill every little weed
and so destroyed wild flowers that in other months bees need.

The crop yields of these other farms were consequently diminished
for now they hadn't enough bees to get pollination finished.
This resulted in less production, less bottom line for all
less money for them to spend at the brand new shopping mall.

Its amazing to think how our farm economies
are so much dependent on hardworking bees.
These industrious little insects are more than flimsy props
they're absolutely essential to produce great bumper crops.

For each pollinator bee is in fact a little cupid
that creates hot romances between plants thought to be stupid.
Each bee can be considered a matchmaking agency
that arranges introductions for a nominal nectar fee.

about this poem

Like all flowering plants, agricultural crops require pollination.  Crops derived from grasses, such as corn, wheat, oats and rice, are usually pollinated by the wind, while most other crops are pollinated by animals.

Animals that pollinate crops include bees, wasps, butterflies, flies, birds, bats and other mammals.  However, bees are generally the most important, pollinating 95% of all food crop species worldwide that have been studied.

The most important bee pollinators are the many different genera of wild bees.  These bees pollinate more than 80% of all food crop species worldwide that have been studied.  In contrast, managed honeybees (Apis) pollinate only one-sixth the number of food crop species that wild bees do.

Another negative aspect of depending on honeybees for pollination is that the number of their colonies, and their pollination efficiency, is currently declining in the USA because of epidemics and interbreeding with Africanized bees.  The latter process has led many honeybee keepers to destroy their colonies and retire because of the dangers of working with aggressive Africanized bees, and the fear of having to pay lawsuits arising from attacks by these bees on people.  If the use of honeybees continues to decline, farmers will probably have to rely even more on wild bees for pollination services in the future.

To maintain healthy populations of wild bees for pollinating crops, farmers need to preserve or create natural habitats next to their fields, such as unplowed prairies and woodlands with a diversity of flowering plants.  These habitats provide places for wild bees to build their nests and wild plants for food.  The latter are important because they bloom and produce nectar for bees when crops are not in flower. 

Farmers also need to be aware that applying too many pesticides can inhibit pollination.  Insecticides kill bees as well as insect pests.  Herbicides kill plants that bloom and provide nectar for bees when crops are not in flower.

Nectar is a sugar solution produced by flowers.  It is the main food of individual bees and the main source of energy for bee hives.  Pollen are fine, dustlike grains found on the male parts of flowers.  When bees visit many flowers to feed upon or collect nectar, they move pollen from one flower to the stigma of another, leading to fertilization of the female ovule and the start of seed production.  This process is called pollination.

The photograph at the top of the page shows a bumblebee (Bombus spp.) on a sunflower (Helianthus annuus), and was taken by Krzysztof Baranski of Poland using an HP Photosmart 735 camera. 

Poem © Copyright 2005 Ecology Online Sweden.  All rights reserved.









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