Updated: Nov 8, 2021
What would happen if all the bees disappeared? The most obvious answer is the honey would disappear too. The truth is it is deeper than that. There are many crops that rely on insect-pollination. In fact, 70% of the crops that 90% of the world eat, rely on bees to do the pollinating. Now, many of these plants can be hand pollinated, but on a commercial scale, that would likely increase the price of produce to almost 300%. It's quite possible that with labor constraints, the amount of acreage growing food, that requires insects for pollination, would decrease. They would be replaced by more grains, likely GMO corn. So, let's look at some of the things that would be hard to come by.
Tomatoes are one of the most popular insect-pollinated crops. The price of premade items such as salsa and pasta sauce would skyrocket. Not just because of the tomatoes, but basil is insect pollinated too.
Basil crops it's leaves, then produces flowers for seed. You need seed from those tiny flowers, every year. So, if the seed growers have to take up pollinating something as small as basil flowers, those prices will increase as well. Seed will become a commodity.
When my farm was near Denver, I went one year where I had no bees for a month, and another year when there were no bees for two. I had to hand-pollinate the tomatoes myself. I found the best way to do it was to tap each flower, when the petals were pulled back, with an electric toothbrush. Tapping it once pollinated 80% of the flowers, and twice 97%. It took me an extra hour or two every day on a small farm. You're trying to replicate a honeybee or other bee which can vibrate the flower 300 times per second. A toothbrush doesn't come close.
Cucumbers, pumpkins, watermelon, summer squash, and melons are all related and take up a lot of room in the field. The vines tend to sprawl on average 10-20 feet. These crops would be
some of the worst effected, because of the space they need. The best way to get these crops would be to grow your own and pollinate them in your own yard.
Peppers are easy like tomatoes, but eggplants would be the worst. They don't take to the toothbrush method as well; They would not be worth it to the field growers. They may disappear with the bees, outside of a dedicated home grower.
Different root vegetables will be affected as well. Especially the ones that take two seasons,
like beets. Radishes may bolt in one season, but those tiny flowers will be a task no one volunteers to tend. Varieties will disappear over the annoyance. Our biodiversity is at stake. A whopping 93% of our seed varieties have disappeared over the last 100 years, just due to profit demands. In a society of instant gratification, annoyance could be prove worse.
I haven't even touched the subject of wildflowers yet; Over 90% are insect pollinated. Many annuals feed the bees, and they happily help them survive another season. These friendly flowers are often harmless to human feet, no thorns. However, the wind pollinated varieties tend to be a little spikey; These are the ones that will take over the new bare spots, eventually. However, dust storms could once again be a nightmare, while we await the thorny hero.
Written By Stephanie Stringfield, President and Founder of Heirloom Mountain Seedswoman
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