The Fruit of Their Labors: Vine Ripened Gourd Goodness and Nuttiness.
Honey Bee Retirement Plan
Honey Bees live in a highly structured matriarchic society in which the queen mother reigns over a hive of disciplined daughters dedicated to their division of deeds. The sisterhood of bees is a caring, giving, sacrificing work force for whom charity begins at the hive. They live and die for queen mother and sisters alike.
The European variety, Apis millifera, is uniquely suited to contribute towards commercial agriculture production. They can pollinate plenty of plants in precious little time. The un-natural aspect of exclusively growing large quantities of one crop that prevails in modern mass agricultural efforts prevents many bee species from ably pollinating to our standards. However, the European honey bee can meet the challenge.
Seeds are capsules that contain the origins of future plants surrounded by nutrients which allow them to grow enclosed within a protective outer cover. The abundance of nutrients held within seeds provide sustenance before they become plants with leaves, roots and other parts used to collect sunlight, minerals and water.
Nuts are a sub category of seeds and as such share the same nutrient rich traits. The plant in waiting derives needed elements while in the seed/nut stage. We as people get the same nutritional benefits by eating these store houses of healthy ingredients. The high flying honey bees are vital to our enjoyment of favorites such as macadamia nuts for which they are responsible for 80% of the pollination. Bees bring nature’s nutritional nuggets within our grasp.
Bee Nutty 1
California is the lone American state that mass produces almonds. Also, market bound almonds are completely dependent upon honey bee pollination. The pollinating princesses are so important that an entire industry has derived from transporting them across state lines to California's almond groves. Yes, bees are that important to almonds.
A little almond goes a long nutritional way. The almond is a leading source of vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin. The B2 vitamin works in concert with fat and carbohydrates to produce energy. In addition, vitamin B2 helps maintain skin and eye health.
A single ounce serving of almonds provide close to the daily required amount of vitamin E. The E brand vitamin purifies cells and maintains heart health. One serving of almonds as a between meal snack and another serving tossed into a salad gives a convenient no cooking necessary way to receive the total vitamin E required in a day. The almond is also a good source of potassium which is known to counterbalance the sodium chloride (salt) within the body thus helping us to maintain a healthy blood pressure. The same ounce doles out a significant source of fiber. Without honey bees we would lose out on these pint size packages of deliciousness and nutritiousness.
Almond Grove at Noon
Bee Nutty 2
The cashew nut, like its favorite pollinator, the honey bee, is not a native of North America. It comes from tropical regions across the globe. Florida is the American state with the most commercial cashew production. Butterflies, humming birds and other bee species count among honey bees' rivals for cashew pollination. However, people can depend upon honey bees more than their competitors.
The cashew is one nutritious item. It contains roughly 15% of the zinc required per day in a one ounce serving. Furthermore, a one ounce serving provides nearly the entire suggested dietary allotment of iron within a day. The cashew provides us with good nutrition one ounce at a time.
Bee line to the Vines
Gourds are a family of flowering plants that tend to grow on vines. Gourd members include among others, gourdians featured in the subsequent paragraphs, squash plants that consist of the summer squash such as zucchini, winter squash such as the acorn variety and cucumbers.
The cucumber produced commercially depends upon honey bees for 80% of their pollination. The vine ripened fruits as a group provide much in the way of nutritional benefits. Research has provided the main source of knowledge with regard to the nutritional benefits of various bee dependent produce. However, in this case this writer (me) also relied upon rumor...I heard it through the gourd vine.
Bee line to the Vines 1
The cantaloupe has historical roots (along with leaves, flowers and seeds) that date back to ancient Persia. Cantaloupe offers good sources of potassium and magnesium. Cantaloupe also provides an abundant source of vitamin A. One medium sized.(5"idiameter) specimen, divided in two slices together adding up to 1/4 of the fruit, contain more than 25% of the daily required portion of the alpha vitamin.
The cantaloupe's nutritional value does not come easy. It has a long growing season but a short reproductive cycle. Cantaloupe flowers bloom for only one day and must be pollinated on that one day to bear fruit. Within this tight window of opportunity, honey bees account for over 70% of pollination that bring cantaloupes to market. The cantaloupe would 'be' a rare sight in the produce section without the bees.
Bee line to the Vines 2
The pumpkin is a seasonal favorite. The harvest arrives in the autumn months of September and October, a timely ripening that makes it available for holiday season feast. The pumpkin's reproduction isn't quite as dependable as its harvest. A large number of pumpkins, the "male" variety do not reproduce new pumpkins. Also, it is only a select few flowers that can be pollinated. And, those few flowers are available for pollination for only one day. The pumpkin requires a full time pollinator (see intro- Pollinating Princesses) such as the honey bees.
The pumpkin delivers the good nutrients both as a snack and desert. The seeds are packed with protein and iron. A single high calorie, high sodium slice of pumpkin pie prepared by a bakery or restaurant satisfies over 90% of daily required vitamin A, more than 20% of vitamin Kand nearly 20% of vitamin Bl, thiamine. The one slice brings with it bone building, blood regulating properties of vitamin K along with the energizing boost of thiamine. The pumpkin is so nutritious that even when it's bad- it's good. Honey bees are dear to our holiday cheer.
Bee line to the Vines 3
Watermelon is the most perfectly named fruit. Water supplies more than 90% of the melon's content. We humans by contrast possess bodies comprised of only 70% water. Watermelon unlike people are a huge percent nutritious and 100% delicious.
The watermelon is an annual that requires a long growing season before it comes to fruition. Insects such as bumblebees and solitary bees pollinate it. However, honey bees contribute about 2/3 of the pollination for melons brought to market. Picnics would suffer the loss of watermelon's fruity lip smacking tango on the taste buds without the honey bees' efforts.
The watermelon is a leading source of lycopenes, the super nutrients known to aid cardiovascular health while also deterring cancer and diabetes. Watermelon stands a notch below the tomato in the lycopene density rankings. The airborne heroines bring sweet flavor and health favor with their pollination of watermelon.
Bees, the little yet legendary luminaries of agricultural labor face an imposing danger. Colony Collapse Disorder (C.C.D.), a plague of epic proportions, threatens to wipe out all bee species including the honey bees who deliver so much of our nutrition. It has already destroyed millions since its suspected recent debut.
The bees’ efforts bring us health and wealth. The well documented contribution of bees to the almond industry is a mere fraction of their input. The advent of C.C.D. is such that it should be met with the same degree of urgency reserved for terrorism, war and economic calamity. It was Napoleon who once said that an army marches on its stomach. So too does the world defended by armies. We need bees and now they need us.