Environment

Which Crops and Plants Are Pollinated By Honey Bees?

Honey bees are vital to the pollination of numerous plants of economic significance. However, these bees are currently suffering population decline due to human activities.

What Is Bee Pollination?

Bee pollination is one type of entomophily, which is pollination performed by insects. Bees are one of the most common pollinators, and manage to visit several different plant species in a single afternoon. Bees land on these various plants and collect pollen and nectar, which they carry back to their hives as food for the colony. As they travel from plant to plant, bees deposit pollen on the female reproductive organs of new plants. This transfer of pollen allows for fertilization.

The Importance Of Bee Pollination

Pollination is perhaps the most important function of bees, particularly honey bees. In fact, research shows that bees are responsible for pollinating approximately 16% of global flowering plants and around 400 agricultural crop plants. In 2010, honey bees (along with other pollinators) contributed to the pollination of around $19 billion worth of agricultural crops. This article takes a closer look at which specific crops are pollinated by honey bees.

Which Crops Are Pollinated By Honey Bees?

The importance of honey bee pollination varies per crop and can be classified as one of the following: essential, great, modest, and little.

Essential

Honey bee pollination is considered essential for eight crops: kiwifruit, passion fruit, rowanberry, watermelon, squash (includes pumpkin, gourd, and zucchini), macadamia nut, and brazil nut. These plants grow across a wide variety of agricultural climates, from temperate to tropical.

Kiwifruit is most successfully pollinated via saturation pollination. This method is when agricultural workers put about 8 hives for every 2.5 acres, thereby forcing bees to collect pollen from solely kiwifruit blossoms.

Passion fruit is most successfully pollinated via bee pollination because its pollen is too heavy and sticky to be transported across the wind. In the US state of Florida, for example, honey bees are the only pollinator for the yellow passion fruit species. In Australia, agricultural workers encourage honey bee pollination by placing 2 to 3 hives for every 2.5 acres.

Great

Bee pollination is characterized as having great importance in the following crops: cashew, starfruit, turnip, coriander, cucumber, durian, cardamom, loquat, buckwheat, feijoa, fennel, apple, mango, avocado, allspice, apricot, sweet and sour cherries, plum, almond, peach, pear, rose hips, raspberry, blackberry, naranjillo, and blueberry.

Of these crops, blueberries require the greatest number of honey bee hives per acre, between 3 and 4 colonies on each acre. Blueberries are unable to self-pollinate and produce sticky, heavy pollen, which means this plant relies on insects to help it achieve fertilization. In Australia, honey bees make up 95% of the insects that pollinate this crop. Blueberry blossoms attract bees with sweet nectar, which is produced at the base of the stigma.

Almonds are next, in terms of the number of colonies needed for pollination. This crop requires between 2 and 3 hives per acre for proper pollination. The almond plant attracts honey bees and other insects because it produces flowers earlier in the season than other crops, making it one of the only food sources available.

Modest

Crops that fall under modest honey bee pollination include: eggplant, jujube, karite, broad bean, service tree, sesame, elderberry, black currant, pomegranate, guava, prickly pear cactus, mammee apple, sunflower, cotton, strawberry, hyacinth bean, coffee plants, coconut, chestnut, caraway, sword bean, rapeseed, mustard, strawberry, and okra.

A list of the important crop plants that rely on honey bee pollination can be found in the chart published below.

Which Crops Plants Are Pollinated By Honey Bees?

RankCommon nameLatin namePollinatorCommercial product of pollination
1OkraAbelmoschus esculentusHoney bees (incl. Apis cerana), Solitary bees (Halictus spp.)fruit
2KiwifruitActinidia deliciosaHoney bees, Bumblebees, Solitary beesfruit
3OnionAllium cepaHoney bees, Solitary bees, Blow fliesseed
4CashewAnacardium occidentaleHoney bees, Stingless bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees (Centris tarsata), Butterflies, Flies, hummingbirdsnut
5CeleryApium graveolensHoney bees, Solitary bees, Fliesseed
6Strawberry treeArbutus unedoHoney bees, Bumblebeesfruit
7Carambola, StarfruitAverrhoa carambolaHoney bees, Stingless beesfruit
8BeetBeta vulgarisHover Flies, Honey bees, Solitary beesseed
9MustardBrassica alba, Brassica hirta, Brassica nigraHoney bees, Solitary bees (Osmia cornifrons, Osmia lignaria)seed
10RapeseedBrassica napusHoney bees, Solitary beesseed
11BroccoliBrassica oleracea cultivarHoney bees, Solitary beesseed
12CauliflowerBrassica oleracea Botrytis GroupHoney bees, Solitary beesseed
13CabbageBrassica oleracea Capitata GroupHoney bees, Solitary beesseed
14Brussels sproutsBrassica oleracea Gemmifera GroupHoney bees, Solitary beesseed
15Chinese cabbageBrassica rapaHoney bees, Solitary beesseed
16Turnip, CanolaBrassica rapaHoney bees, Solitary bees (Andrena ilerda, Osmia cornifrons, Osmia lignaria, Halictus spp.), Fliesseed
17Pigeon pea, Cajan pea, Congo beanCajanus cajanHoney bees, Solitary bees (Megachile spp.), Carpenter beesseed
18Chilli pepper, Red pepper, Bell pepper, Green pepperCapsicum annuum, Capsicum frutescensHoney bees, Stingless bees (Melipona spp.), Bumblebees, Solitary bees, Hover fliesfruit
19PapayaCarica papayaHoney bees, thrips, large sphinx moths, Moths, Butterfliesfruit
20SafflowerCarthamus tinctoriusHoney bees, Solitary beesseed
21CarawayCarum carviHoney bees, Solitary bees, Fliesseed
22ChestnutCastanea sativaHoney bees, Solitary beesnut
23WatermelonCitrullus lanatusHoney bees, Bumblebees, Solitary beesfruit
24TangerineCitrus tangerinaHoney bees, Bumblebeesfruit
25Orange, Grapefruit, TangeloCitrus spp.Honey bees, Bumblebeesfruit
26CoconutCocos nuciferaHoney bees, Stingless beesnut
27Coffea spp. Coffea arabica, Coffea canephoraCoffea spp.Honey bees, Stingless bees, Solitary beesfruit
28CorianderCoriandrum sativumHoney bees, Solitary beesseed
29CrownvetchCoronilla varia L.Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary beesseed (increased yield from pollinators)
30AzaroleCrataegus azarolusHoney bees, Solitary beesfruit
31Cantaloupe, MelonCucumis melo L.Honey bees, Squash bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees (Ceratina spp.)fruit
32CucumberCucumis sativusHoney bees, Squash bees, Bumblebees, Leafcutter bee (in greenhouse pollination), Solitary bees (for some parthenocarpic gynoecious green house varieties pollination is detrimental to fruit quality)fruit
33Squash (plant), Pumpkin, Gourd, Marrow, ZucchiniCucurbita spp.Honey bees, Squash bees, Bumblebees, Solitary beesfruit
34Guar bean, Goa beanCyamopsis tetragonolobaHoney beesseed
35QuinceCydonia oblonga Mill.Honey beesfruit
36LemonHoney beesfruit
37LimeHoney beesfruit
38CarrotDaucus carotaFlies, Solitary bees, Honey beesseed
39Hyacinth beanDolichos spp.Honey bees, Solitary beesseed
40LonganDimocarpus longanHoney bees, Stingless bees
41PersimmonDiospyros kaki, Diospyros virginianaHoney bees, Bumblebees, Solitary beesfruit
42CardamomElettaria cardamomumHoney bees, Solitary bees
43LoquatEriobotrya japonicaHoney bees, Bumblebeesfruit
44BuckwheatFagopyrum esculentumHoney bees, Solitary beesseed
45FeijoaFeijoa sellowianaHoney bees, Solitary beesfruit
46FennelFoeniculum vulgareHoney bees, Solitary bees, Fliesseed
47StrawberryFragaria spp.Honey bees, Stingless bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees (Halictus spp.), Hover fliesfruit
48CottonGossypium spp.Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary beesseed, fiber
49SunflowerHelianthus annuusBumblebees, Solitary bees, Honey beesseed
50FlaxLinum usitatissimumHoney bees, Bumblebees, Solitary beesseed
51LycheeLitchi chinensisHoney bees, Fliesfruit
52LupineLupinus angustifolius L.Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary beesseed
53MacadamiaMacadamia ternifoliaHoney bees, Stingless bees (Trigona carbonaria), Solitary bees (Homalictus spp.), Wasps, Butterfliesnut
54AcerolaMalpighia glabraHoney bees, Solitary beesfruit (minor commercial value)
55AppleMalus domestica, or Malus sylvestrisHoney bees, orchard mason bee, Bumblebees, Solitary bees (Andrena spp., Halictus spp., Osmia spp., Anthophora spp.), Hover flies (Eristalis cerealis, Eristalis tenax)fruit
56MangoMangifera indicaHoney bees, Stingless bees, Flies, Ants, Waspsfruit
57AlfalfaMedicago sativaAlfalfa leafcutter bee, Alkali bee, Honey beesseed
58RambutanNephelium lappaceumHoney bees, Stingless bees, Fliesfruit
59SainfoinOnobrychis spp.Honey bees, Solitary beesseed
60AvocadoPersea americanaStingless bees, Solitary bees, Honey beesfruit
61Lima bean, Kidney bean, Haricot bean, Adzuki bean, Mungo bean, String bean, Green beanPhaseolus spp.Honey bees, Solitary beesfruit, seed
62Scarlet runner beanPhaseolus coccineus L.Bumblebees, Honey bees, Solitary bees, Thripsseed
63AllspicePimenta dioicaHoney bees, Solitary bees (Halictus spp., Exomalopsis spp., Ceratina spp.)
64ApricotPrunus armeniacaHoney bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees, Fliesfruit
65Sweet CherryPrunus avium spp.Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees, Fliesfruit
66Sour cherryPrunus cerasusHoney bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees, Fliesfruit
67Plum, Greengage, Mirabelle, SloePrunus domestica, Prunus spinosaHoney bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees, Fliesfruit
68AlmondPrunus dulcis, Prunus amygdalus, or Amygdalus communisHoney bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees (Osmia cornuta), Fliesnut
69Peach, NectarinePrunus persicaHoney bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees, Fliesfruit
70GuavaPsidium guajavaHoney bees, Stingless bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees (Lasioglossum spp.)fruit
71PomegranatePunica granatumHoney bees, Solitary bees, Beetlesfruit
72PearPyrus communisHoney bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees, Hover flies (Eristalis spp.)fruit
73Black currant, Red currantRibes nigrum, Ribes rubrumHoney bees, Bumblebees, Solitary beesfruit
74Rose hips, DogrosesRosa spp.Honey bees, Bumblebees, Carpenter bees, Solitary bees, Hover flies
75BoysenberryRubus spp.Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary beesfruit
76RaspberryRubus idaeusHoney bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees, Hover flies (Eristalis spp.)fruit
77BlackberryRubus fruticosusHoney bees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees, Hover flies (Eristalis spp.)fruit
78ElderberrySambucus nigraHoney bees, Solitary bees, Flies, Longhorn beetlesfruit
79SesameSesamum indicumHoney bees, Solitary bees, Wasps, Fliesseed
80RowanberrySorbus aucupariaHoney bees, Solitary bees, Bumblebees, Hover fliesfruit
81Hog plumSpondias spp.Honey bees, Stingless bees (Melipona spp.)fruit
82TamarindTamarindus indicaHoney bees (incl. Apis dorsata)fruit
83Clover (not all species)Trifolium spp.Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary beesseed
84White cloverTrifolium albaHoney bees, Bumblebees, Solitary beesseed
85Alsike cloverTrifolium hybridum L.Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary beesseed
86Crimson cloverTrifolium incarnatumHoney bees, Bumblebees, Solitary beesseed
87Red cloverTrifolium pratenseHoney bees, Bumblebees, Solitary beesseed
88Arrowleaf cloverTrifolium vesiculosum SaviHoney bees, Bumblebees, Solitary beesseed
89CranberryVaccinium oxycoccus, Vaccinium macrocarponBumblebees (Bombus affinis), Solitary bees (Megachile addenda, Alfalfa leafcutter bees), Honey beesfruit
90Broad beanVicia fabaHoney bees, Bumblebees, Solitary beesseed
91VetchVicia spp.Honey bees, Bumblebees, Solitary beesseed
92Cowpea, Black-eyed pea, Blackeye beanVigna unguiculataHoney bees, Bumblebees, Solitary beesseed
93KariteVitellaria paradoxaHoney beesnut
94GrapeVitis spp.Honey bees, Solitary bees, Fliesfruit
95JujubeZizyphus jujubaHoney bees, Solitary bees, Flies, Beetles, Waspsfruit

More in Environment