The Future of Food
The World Resources Institute reports that by 2050 the world’s population will grow to 9.6 billion and we need sustainable ways to increase food production by 69% in order to close the gap of food availability. Our need to ensure future food security drives our mission to empower farmers and gardeners to grow more food for more people.
A simple, powerful, but often overlooked solution to increasing food production is to improve bee diversity to ensure proper pollination of crops. Flowers need to be pollinated in order to form seeds and the pollen grains of many fruit and vegetable plants are too heavy to be carried by the wind. Plants with heavy pollen rely on animal or insect pollination to bring their pollen from the male organ (the anther) of one flower to the female organ (the stigma) of another, or sometimes the same, flower. A flower that has been properly and thoroughly pollinated will grow fruit that is more uniform, grows larger, and healthier. Many flowers have to be visited by pollinators repeatedly in order to produce fruit at all.
Some pollinators are more efficient at pollination than others because of their features and how they carry pollen. While honey bees often get all the press, mason and leafcutter bees are superior pollinators because they carry pollen dry on the underside of their abdomens. Dry pollen falls off easily and the large surface area of the abdomen touches more of the flower’s anthers and stigmas. Honey bees routinely stop to clean themselves and transform the pollen they carry into two wet baskets of pollen on their hind legs. American agricultural systems tend to view honey bees as the only economically important pollinator but the truth is our wild native bees are important and efficient pollinators that deserve recognition.
The economic value of pollination in the US is estimated to be $24 billion per year, but that number is very conservative. Pollination is critical for more than just the foods that we eat directly, it is also necessary for our oilseed (ie, canola or linseed), livestock feed crops, and crop seeds to grow foods like potatoes and carrots. Pollination within wild and natural places also provides berries and fruit for birds, deer, bears, and people too. Lastly, there can be no economic value placed on the role that our native pollinators play in maintaining our beloved biodiversity in natural landscapes, national parks, and rangelands.
Like with many practices in an effort to be sustainable, local materials are best and bees native to your bioregion are best suited to bring more food to the table. In some areas bee diversity has suffered, and by simply introducing or reintroducing another bee species or pollinator to a small farm, productivity can be raised by an amazing 25%. Turning to our mason and leafcutter bees to diversify our portfolio of managed bees is an easy way to increase crop production and improve crop quality. Recognizing the importance of bee diversity in our backyards and in our farmlands is a part of the future of sustainable agricultural practices.
More local pollination by native bees means more local food for friends, family, and neighbors. Helping the global backyard means bringing more food to the global table. Learn how you can become an integral part of the future of food when you raise mason bees and participate in our BeeBuyBack program.