You may have heard that the bee population in North America has been declining. The USDA found that 40% of American bee hives died between April 2014 and April 2015. This is significant, as pollinators like bees and butterflies pollinate most of our crops. In fact, bees are responsible for pollinating 70 out of the top 100 crops eaten by humans.
There are a few factors leading to the decline in bee population, like habitat loss and the widespread use of neonicotinoid-based pesticides. Now, the honey bee is not native to North America. Many native plants would not be affected if bees ceased to exist on the continent, but many of today's crops rely highly on bee pollination. Here are seven foods we could not enjoy without bees (besides honey).
Almonds rely almost exclusively on bees for pollination when the plants flower. Bees are so crucial to California's almond crop that almost 1 million beehives are transported to the state during flowering season, amounting to 1.7 hives of bees that pollinate the crop statewide. America's almond industry would surely suffer with less bees.
Another crop that would be harder to grow without bees is cherries. The United States is ranked second in the world for cherry production, growing over 360,000 tons of sweet cherries in 2014 (that doesn't even count the sour variety). With the benefits cherry juice can provide, we should definitely care about these little stone fruits.
Tomatoes are a biggie. I probably eat tomatoes every day, whether they're on my salad or in sauce form. And they seem to be a choice fruit for food fights. Tomatoes rely on bees and the wind to self-pollinate, but honey bees don't visit them because tomato flowers don't have nectar. However, wild bumble bees still aid the pollination process, so don't count them out.
Georgians, take note: peach trees rely on bees to help their self-pollination process. Whether you enjoy your peaches savory or sweet, think of the bees that made your treat possible. If the bee population in North America continues to decline, things won't look too peachy in the future.
As a Kansan, I believe my state flower is important. Sunflower oil is a healthier source of fat that is used in some processed foods and certain biofuels. Furthermore, sunflower oil has the highest Vitamin E concentration of all cooking oils. We have bees to thank for pollinating these bright, seed-heavy flowers.
Everyone knows how important coffee is to our society. Over half of adults in the US drink coffee daily. Though coffee plants can pollinate themselves just fine, when bees help the crop yield rises by 50%. That's quite significant when you're addicted to coffee like the rest of America.
Lastly, lemons will take a serious hit if the bee population continues to decline. Like the other foods listed above, lemons rely 90-100% on bees to pollinate their flowers. With less lemons, we would have less opportunities to enjoy the best match made in culinary heaven: lemon and sugar.