We celebrated Arbor week this week in South Africa.
Honey bee on Nuxia floribunda
During Arbor week, organisations, schools, business and the general public are encouraged to participate by planting indigenous trees, and in turn, increase the awareness of the importance and beauty of our indigenous tree species in South Africa!
In celebration of Arbor week and our #PolliNationSA movement, we placed some special attention this week to not just trees, but more importantly, bee-friendly trees. We hosted a webinar on Thursday with Dr Thlou Masehela, a scientist at SANBI and current chairman of the Western Cape Bee Industry Association, and African honey bee expert and senior researcher at the Agricultural Research Council, Mike Allsopp, about bee-friendly trees and how you can create a bee-friendly environment.
If you missed the webinar, you can view a recording here and remember to use the password: 0X+6^&w$
What is pollination and why is it so important?
Most plants are sexually reproducing. The vast majority of all flowering plants sexually reproduce, which means that they have male parts on a flower and female parts on a flower and in some cases an entirely male or female plant. However, in all three cases, for sexual reproduction to take place, it requires pollen to be transferred from the male parts of the flower (anthers) to the female part of the flower (stigma).
Pollination is the transfer of pollen from the male parts to the female parts of the flower. Pollination will result in fertilization, seeds, and a continuation of that plant. If pollen is transferred from a different plant to another plant, from one cultivar to another cultivar, this is called cross-pollination which is commonly required in crop plants.
Pollination agents can be either abiotic (wind, water) or biotic (birds, rodents, bats, insects). So in essence, pollination is the crucial process of getting pollen from the male part of the flower to the female part of the flower and without it, we would lose those plants. So pollinators and pollination are absolutely critical for conservation and biodiversity. If we lost our pollinators, we would potentially lose most of our flowering plants.
Bees and pollination
Bees are one of the crucial insect pollinators and when we talk about bees, we're not really only talking about honeybees. We're talking about thousands of species of different bees that are specialized and highly adaptive pollinators.
When we move into commercial crop production, away from just natural heterogeneous environments, commercial crop production these days have become very intensive and you have tens and thousands of hectares of a single crop like apples or sunflowers with only one type of flower, all flowering at exactly the same time and you have almost no natural habitat within that environment where your pollinators can come from. So essentially, you've got a large, sterile environment with literally many billions of flowers that require pollination.
This is ever more so in high-intensity agriculture, which we see more and more around the world. For pollination to take place in commercial crop landscapes, we actually have to introduce pollinators. We have to transport pollinators from outside to the commercial crop for those 10 days of flowering. So now we're talking about managed pollinators and that is almost entirely honey bees (98%) because only really with honey bees can you transport literally millions of pollinators.
So when people talk about the bee crisis, they're not actually talking about bees going extinct or that they are endangered. There are more honey bee colonies managed in the world now than they've ever been before. But, what the bee crisis is, is that it's becoming more and more difficult for countries around the world to be able to keep enough managed bees to sustain this ever-increasing demand for commercial pollination.
Bee-friendly fruit and nut trees for your garden
Remember to do your research about your location and climate and which trees will do well in your area. If you need to know exactly what the pollination demands of that cultivar you're planting. Does it need cross-pollination? Are male and female plants borne on separate plants?
Honey bee on a Carob tree
Bee-friendly ornamental trees for your garden
Consider the climatic conditions in your area and be observant of the trees that naturally occur in your area or suburb. Otherwise, go and talk to your closest nursery or garden centre to learn more about trees that will do well in your area.
Below is a shortlist of some tree with a good balance of pollen and nectar. This is definitely not the 'hit list' and there are many more bee-friendly trees to choose from. Have a look at this collection of plant that we have in our Knowledgebase in Candide.
Loquat tree flower
Candide solitary bee hotel
How to attract more bees and other pollinators to your garden
- Plant indigenous plant species that are attractive to bees and other pollinators
- Provide nesting sites by leaving a few stumps or dead log in your garden or buy a bee hotel
- Provide a water source
- Plant a diversity of plants that will give you a continuous yield of flowers throughout the year
- Greenpop | Join the treevolution and sponsor or gift a tree this Arbor week
- Gums & Bees | A roadmap for landowners in South Africa
- Beeplants of South Africa
- Solitary bee hotel | TutusLoco