Pollinators are essential for the reproduction of the vast majority of plant species—almost 90%. Pollination is the mechanism by which pollinators transport pollen from one flower to another, assisting plants in producing fruit.Pollinators are animals that help plants reproduce. There are about 200,000 different species of pollinators on the planet. Around 1,000 of these are vertebrates, such as birds, bats, and small mammals, with the large remainder being invertebrates, such as flies, beetles, butterflies, moths, and bees. Pollinators support over 180,000 different plant species by pollinating them.
Pollinators are responsible for pollinating over 1,200 crops worldwide. Pollinators are required 75% of the top food crops. Pollinators bring in over $217 billion to the global economy per year, and $24 billion to the US economy. If we factor in indirect plant products like milk and beef from cows fed alfalfa, the value of pollinator services in the United States rises to a staggering $40 billion.
Honey bees are a major revenue generator for American agriculture. Honey, pollen, royal jelly, beeswax, propolis, and venom are among the six hive products produced by these social and hardworking insects, and they are all gathered and used by humans for various nutritional and medicinal purposes.
The most well-known and economically significant hive commodity is, of course, honey. Honey bees produced 157 million pounds of honey in 2019, according to the National Agriculture Statistics Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. With honey costing $1.97 per pound, the total value is just over $339 million.
From an economic standpoint, beeswax is the second most valuable hive commodity after honey. The trade in beeswax dates back to ancient Greece and Rome, and the substance was used as a unit of trade for taxes and other purposes in Medieval Europe. Today’s demand is still solid. Beeswax is often used to make candles, as well as in artists’ materials and leather and wood polishes. The material is used in the pharmaceutical industry as a binding agent, time-release mechanism, and drug carrier. Beeswax is perhaps one of the most widely used cosmetic waxes. The United States is a major producer of raw beeswax and a global source of processed beeswax.
The greatest contribution of honey bees to agriculture, however, is not a result of the hive. It’s their job to pollinate crops. Honey bees are estimated to be worth between 10 and 20 times the total value of honey and beeswax in terms of agricultural benefit. In reality, bee pollination adds around $15 billion to the value of crops.