“What good do bees do?”

That question was posed during a conversation while our family was outside enjoying the weather on a recent summer evening. For once, no one had to turn to Siri or Alexa for the answer. Because of the work farmers are doing to restore pollinator habitat, I’ve learned plenty about all the ways that bees benefit agriculture. 

The most obvious answer, of course, is they produce the honey that we enjoy on our toast at breakfast. 

But bees provide a multitude of other benefits that most people don’t know about. For example, California’s almond industry is 100% dependent on bee pollination. There are beekeepers who rent out their hives, moving them from orchard to orchard during pollination season. They are so valuable, theft of beehives is a real problem in some areas.

At least one-third of the human food supply from crops and plants depends on insect pollination, most of which is done by bees, according to Syngenta.

Iowa farmers and other segments of the agriculture industry are doing their part to help bees, butterflies and other pollinators thrive by establishing pollinator habitats on field borders, conservation plantings, gardens and other areas. You might see Monarch Fueling Station signs outside of ethanol plants, spotlighting efforts to establish habitat for butterflies as they cross the state along their migration route. 

As you’re outside celebrating the Fourth of July this week, you might see these vital pollinators buzzing around trying to get a taste of the sodas and desserts on your picnic table. I hope you’ll join me in raising a glass to toast the incredible role they play in our food system.