Bees visit flowers to collect nectar and pollen which they use to make honey as a food. As bees fly around from plant to plant they pick up and drop off pollen between the flowers. This is a really important job in nature because moving pollen between flowers helps plants to reproduce (make new plants) through a process called pollination. If bees didn’t do this, then certain types of plants wouldn’t be able to make seeds.
So let’s find out more about how the lifecycles of bees and flowers work together…
There are lots of different types of bee but in this post, I’m going to talk about honeybees. Bees live in special nests called beehives. Inside a beehive, there are lots of hexagon-shaped cells made of beeswax, arranged in a special structure that we call a honeycomb. The cells are used by the bees as storage spaces for nectar and pollen (which they use for food) and for their eggs, larvae and pupae (which are three stages of the bee lifecycle).
The lifecycle of a honeybee has four stages:
- A Queen bee (the mummy bee in charge of the hive where the bees live) will lay eggs inside the hive. She will lay one egg per cell. After three days, the eggs hatch into larvae.
- The bee larvae are very hungry, so the worker bees collect lots and lots of pollen and nectar to make a special kind of food called ‘bee bread’ (made from honey and pollen) to feed to them. After about six days, the larvae spin themselves into cocoons to become pupae.
- Inside their pupae, the baby bees develop into their adult form. Depending on what type of bee they will become (worker bee, drone or Queen bee), this stage can take between about six and ten days.
- The adult (or grown-up) bees emerge from their pupae and start doing their bee jobs for the hive. Drones mate with the Queen bees as part of the reproduction process to make more bee eggs. Queen bees make eggs to grow more bees. Worker bees fly out from the hive to collect nectar and pollen.
I talked about the plant lifecycle in my answer to why are flowers pretty colours? Flowers are an important part of the lifecycle of some types of plants because they are part of a process called reproduction (the way in which new plants are made).
Some flowers make pollen; others make tiny cells called ‘eggs’. In order to make a seed from which a new plant can grow, pollen from one flower needs to combine with an egg from another. But plants can’t move about to combine their pollen and eggs, so how do they get around this problem? Well, pollen can be moved between flowers by the wind or by insects, animals or even by people!
Plants that rely on insects to move their pollen make flowers that are brightly coloured or smelly so that the insects will be attracted to come and sit on the flowers. When an insect visits a flower, some of the pollen will stick to its body. Later, when the insect lands on another flower, the pollen will rub off its body onto the flower. So, you can see how insects like bees help plants to reproduce by moving pollen around from flower to flower and from plant to plant.
If you want to help out the bees in their job as pollinators, why not plant some bee-friendly plants in your garden, on your windowsill or at your school or workplace?