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planet at the annual Earthwatch debate. The audience heard from five eminent scientists who battled it out for fungi, bats, plankton, primates and bees. While of course all species are invaluable for our ecosystem, the debate is designed to raise awareness about conservation by asking the audience to vote for just one of the species to receive a fictitious cheque for one trillion pounds to be spent on their conservation.
Some 250,000 species of flowering plants depend on bees for pollination. Many of these are crucial to world agriculture. Bees increase the yields of around 90 crops, such as apples, blueberries and cucumbers by up to 30%, so many fruits and vegetables would become scarce and prohibitively expensive.
Although other insects and animals do pollinate – such as bats, butterflies and even wasps – none is designed like the bee as a pollinator machine. There are 20,000 bee species around the world including solitary bees, bumblebees and honeybees. Many are monoletic – pollinate one plant – others like bumblebees and honeybees are polylectic.
"If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man." The western honeybee plays a vital role within the planet's eco-system, pollinating 70% of the food that we eat. Yet the future of the honeybee is under threat, and the rate at which their numbers continue to diminish, has led to fears that we are dangerously out of sync with nature.