Coffee without bees?
Learn why bees are crucial for 40% of world’s coffee production
Why? Because of the essential service that bees and other pollinators provide. When plants reproduce, female procreation material has to get in touch with male procreation material. As we know, plants can’t move, so they need little helpers. This can be the wind, carrying pollen through the air. Likwise, those helpers can be pollinating insects, who, seduced by the offered nectar of a flower, transfer also the procreation material from plant to plant. Curious? Read more in our article What is pollination.
Back to the coffee.
You might know that the most important and diffused coffee plants are Arabica (Coffea arabica) and Robusta (Coffea canephora).
Now, Arabica plants are known as highland coffee plants and found above 1.200 – 1.5000 meters altitude.
They are self-fertilizing and they usually don’t need bees for pollination, being a wind-pollinated plant species.
However, when bees are around Arabica plants, the coffee fruit harvest increases up to 16%!Differently, Robusta plants are lowland coffee plants. Most importantly, Robusta Coffee makes up around 40% of the world’s coffee production.
They are used to an environment with a strong biodiversity.
They are self-sterile and depend entirely on cross pollination. In short, they need bees!
What does cross pollination mean?
Cross pollinated plants are self-sterile. It means that they cannot be fertilized with their own pollen. They therefore need the pollen from other plants.
How to get the pollen from the other plant? Through bees and pollinators!
This is why bees are crucial for world’s coffee production. Therefore, if you love coffee, you should also love bees :).
Most of our coffee comes from huge coffee farms, having the same problemas as many monoculture farms:
During flowering season the farm is a paradise for bees (as long as no pesticides are used). However, after the coffee flowering season the whole coffee farm becomes a “food desert” for bees and other pollinators.
How can coffee farms help bees and boost their coffee production?
From interviews with organic coffee farmers we know that the presence of bees boosts coffee production up to 40%!
What can farmers do to attract bees?
- They can intercrop coffee trees with other types of trees. More biodiversity makes the farm less prone to pests and provides more nectar sources for beneficial insects such as bees.
- They should avoid the use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides.
- Keeping some parts of the coffee farm as untouched forest or garden can be beneficial. Bees and other wildlife can withdraw here.
- By embracing weeds and use them as organic matter through the “chop and drop” method. Meanwhile bees can find nectar on flowering weeds.
If you want to learn more, read our article Permaculture Coffee Farming.
Moreover, the World Coffee Research Institute states that coffee in the wild is lacking genetic diversity. Through cross-pollination the gene pool can be diversified. Thus, also for this reason, bees are playing a fundamental role in the world of coffee.
- American Journal of Botany 90(1): 153–157. 2003 Bee pollination and fruit set of coffea arabica and c. canephora (ruiaceae) ALEXANDRA-MARIAKLEIN,2 INGOLF STEFFAN DEWENTER, AND TEJA TSCHARNTKE Agroecology, University of Gottingen, https://www.bayceer.uni-bayreuth.de/bayceer/en/pub/html/AmericanJournalBotany2003,90.pdf
- http://www.thecoffeeguide.org/coffee-guide/coffee-quality/robusta—the-species/How to Effectively Safeguard Honey Bees