The honey bee is our most important crop pollinator. The honey bee accomplishes about 85 percent of the pollination of our flowering plants. The remaining 15 percent of the work is done by many species of native bees, bumblebees, butterflies, moths, birds, bats, and various other insects. In the absence of these pollinators, humans can move grains of pollen from the anther of one flower to the stigma of a similar flower on another plant. Bees pollinate about 90 of our food crops, one third of our diet. If pollination is not accomplished, there is no fruit or seed produced. However, this is usually not the case in nature. Even where there is a shortage of bees, some flowers are visited. The result of insufficient numbers of bee visits is often seen in misshapen fruit. Cucumbers, watermelons, and pumpkins only fill out in nice, plump shapes when the flowers are visited by plenty of bees.
Rita and I made a visit to the state of Washington to see Wes. The three of us visited the farmers market at Moscow, Idaho. Like farmers markets across the country, the Moscow market was quite popular on a Saturday morning. People gathered to buy fresh farm produce, meet the farmers, and enjoy a sense of community with friends. We found beautiful, fully developed fruit and vegetables from the rich farmland of Washington and Idaho. There were colorful and fragrant apples, pears, and plums as well as bright pumpkins, tomatoes, squash, gourds, and peppers. At the market, we visited with some Washington beekeepers who have a family farm that transports bees for pollination service from California through Oregon and Washington. After trucking their bees for pollination, they bring them home to strengthen the hives on fields of canola. We purchased some of their light and mild knapweed, or star thistle, honey. We also bought some of their buckwheat honey, black and strong with an aftertaste, a honey enjoyed by only a select few.--Richard