Whether in your small patch of garden or in massive agricultural pollination management projects that can require up to a million hives, bees are essential to the continuing propagation of our flowers, vegetables, and fruits. Even in some species such as peaches where self-pollination is possible, cross-pollination usually tends to produce a much better crop.
The bee-related technique flowers have evolved to help each other grow into seeds and fruit is a simple one. Bees are drawn to flowers to collect nectar for honey and pollen for bee bread, and flowers do their utmost to show them where they can obtain each. Each time the bee lands on a new flower, some of the pollen, which collects in dense hairs on the hind legs, is left behind on the new flower's stigma.
Interestingly, bees can choose to primarily collect either nectar or pollen. Some amount of pollen will always be transferred regardless, but a bee specifically collecting pollen is far more efficient a pollinator. Professional pollination managers take advantage of this pattern by specifically using hives which are being actively built or re-built during the crucial bloom phase, thus requiring the protein of pollen far over the energy of nectar. Honey production of the hive will suffer as a result.
The increasing use of monocultures in agriculture creates pollination environments where massive amounts of bees are required during a relatively brief flowering period, leaving a poor or even poisoned foraging environment for bees the rest of the year. This situation has required ever increasing portability of beehives. Pollination management projects specialise in ensuring that the necessary thousands of hives are continually transferred in where and when they are required, and removed at once once the pollination is complete. Thus, like migrant workers, many professional beekeepers now follow the post-frost pattern of bloom, travelling usually south to north.
However, the domestic bee population has been taking a beating these past several years. First bee mites, now colony collapse disorder: and in their threatened absence we are suddenly confronted with the reality that we depend on bees for so much more than honey. Perhaps our modern agriculture can somehow survive without bees: but the expectations upon which it has developed will change drastically, and the yields we have grown so accustomed to will be much poorer.
And that will be a world we cannot currently imagine.