Over the next few blog posts, I will share with you a series of posters I created demonstrating what meals might look like if we eliminated all foods that benefit from animal pollination. I’d like to use these posts as an opportunity to explore this topic in greater depth than could be accomplished in the original posters.
The first poster, “A Nutritious Breakfast,” depicts which items of the most important meal come from animal pollinated crops:
While the reasoning behind some of differences between the two meals are obvious (such as the lack of honey holding together those delicious clusters of oats), others are a little more cryptic.
The Bees and the Berries
Almonds are another crop dependent on bee visitation. They are one of the main agricultural exports of California (the top almond producer in the world). The Almond Board of California estimated that this crop generates $11 billion/year and 104,000 jobs for the California economy. If you drive through the San Joaquin Valley in late January, you will be surrounded by a sea of white and pink almond flowers- 900,000 acres, to be more exact. At a rate of two colonies per acre, the almond industry is a major driver of the high demand for honey bee hives nationwide.
Pollinators and Nutrition
Hopefully I’ve convinced you that without animal-pollinated foods, your breakfast wouldn’t be as delicious. Believe it or not, your breakfast would be less nutritious as well.
Crops that benefit from animal pollination are responsible for 90% of the world’s supply of Vitamin C, and the antioxidants β-cryptoxanthin and β-tocopherol. In addition, the majority of Vitamin A, plant-based lipids, calcium, fluoride, and a large portion of folic acid comes from animal-pollinated crops (Eilers et al. 2011).
Animal pollinators do more than just increase the quantity of nutritious crops. In some cases they increase the nutritional quality of the food as well. For example, in addition to being a good source of vitamin E, almonds are considered a health food because of their high levels of oleic acid. Bee pollination not only increases total almond yield, but also the ratio of oleic acid to linoleic acid in the resulting fruit (Brittain et al. 2014).
To summarize: Without pollinators your breakfast would be less colorful, less delicious, and less nutritious.
But wait! It’s more complex than that…
Okay, hopefully the length and detail of information in this post haven’t discouraged you from reading this blog altogether! Up next is lunch: an apple, a chocolate chip cookie, and a slice of sausage and pepper pizza. You may have noticed that in the “without pollinators” photo, our granola is looking particularly dry. Stay tuned for an explanation!