Monday, July 7, 2014

Honeybees and the end of the world

Speaking of daft emails and memes (this time, from a reputable social activism site) where The bee-ginning of the end is nigh.

Whereas I am all for saving the honeybees, I object to the doomsday quote being pandered about—and falsely attributed to Albert Einstein: If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live. Bah! I HATE pseudo-science.

Einstein was a physicist. Not a beekeeper. He never, ever said it. Granted, about 130 kinds of fruit and nut crops that we depend upon, are pollinated by honeybees. But European honeybees (tho incredibly efficient pollenators) are NOT native to either of the Americas. It seems that many peoples survived just fine for millennia on end without them. Just sayin'. OK, so some vines, including cucumbers, and also almonds might be in trouble...but there are other critters out there.

Also, though not as efficient, there are many other pollinators out there—including wind, rain, small animals—bats, birds—hummers, butterflies, moths, bumblebees, native bees (3000 species native to the US alone), all manner of bugs, wasps and flies. And soft paintbrushes will work in a pinch too.

And some plants even self-pollinate! Self-pollination: when a flower pollinates and fertilizes itself. They don't need no stinkin' wind or bees to pollinate.

Self-pollination some plants have separate male and female flower parts: when pollen is transferred from one flower on a plant to another flower on the same plant—vine crops such as cucumbers where male flowers produce only pollen and female flowers have only the pistil. Bees are essential for cucumber pollination. I can live without cukes.

Cross-pollination—from a flower of one plant to a flower of another. Some apple trees cannot be pollinated by flowers of the same variety due to pollen incompatibility. Now this cloning thing gets a tad complicated.

Vegetatively propagated trees of the same variety are genetically the same, and the flowers are self-sterile, different varieties must be interplanted to provide compatible pollen for pollination. Need a little strange DNA in the mix.

In any pollination work, it is important to know which of these three pollination methods is involved to provide adequate pollination. Then write those silly memes based on facts instead of using Chicken Little science.

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