Independence almond trees are easy to harvest, and they make tasty almonds. But what really sets them apart is the fact that they're self-fertile — meaning they technically don't need bees to pollinate their flowers because they're pollinating themselves (though some farmers say if you use just a few bees, you'll get an even bigger crop.) That's a boon for farmers, who spend lots of money hiring bees to pollinate their crop.
A bee visiting a lupine flower in the springtime. The orange wad of pollen in the bee's pollen basket is from the flowers. The bee takes both pollen and nectar from the flowers and pollinates the plant in turn. Next, find an insect that's been around for more than 30 million years. Image Credit: Darlyne A. Murawski/Getty Images
Changes in climate means there are fewer flowers. How will bees adapt? "What no one expected was that the tongues of long-tongued bees would get shorter. A lot shorter. The bees’ shape changed, but the flowers didn’t. Building and maneuvering a big tongue takes energy, and bees with shorter tongues may have done better at diverting that energy into more babies. The bees may not be as good a pollinator for those plants, which could cause further declines in flowers. In the long term, perhaps…
Many plants produce extrafloral nectaries (nectar-producing glands located outside of the flower) on leaves, petioles, flower buds, bracts, and stems. The plants attract the ants with their sugary exudate, and the ants return the favor by protecting the plant from insects and other animals, that would otherwise eat it. (See the photos below of ants feeding on the extrafloral nectary of a peony flower bud.)