If it weren't for bees, many fruits and vegetables would never make it to market. Of the 100 crop species which provide 90% of food worldwide, over 70% of these crops are bee-pollinated. In the United States alone, 1/3 of all the bites you take wouldn't be possible without honey bees.
Honey bees are vital parts of our ecosystem, acting as highly efficient pollinators of our food crops as well as for wild flora. We need bees to keep our crops and earth healthy, but in recent years their numbers have been decreasing by the billions. In addition to bees acting as a keystone species in our environment, beekeeping, honey production, and honeybee pollination is worth about $14 billion annually in the United States.
Some crops, such as almonds, avocados, and apples, would not exist without pollination. Pollination is the process by which honey bees help plants to produce fruit (technically anything with seeds on the inside, so that includes things we normally think of as vegetables, like cucumbers and tomatoes) by transporting pollen from one flower to another. As the bees gather nectar and pollen, their tiny hairs are coated in pollen, which falls into the next flower they stop and visit.
Considering that the average honey bee can visit more than 2,000 flowers in one day, bees greatly increase the chances of a plant producing a fruit or vegetable. While they pollinate, bees are also collecting pollen for themselves which they transport back to the hive, where it serves as the main source of protein in their diet and sometimes makes its way into their honey.
Our information is sourced from the USDA's annual reports on honeybee health, USDA's most recent information on the productivity and estimated pollination effectiveness of bees, and from recent peer-reviewed publications.