Flowers reproduce through pollination. In order to reproduce, the male part of one flower (the pollen) has to get into the female part of the flower (the ovary). But flowers can’t move on their own, so they need the help of the bees and other pollinators to spread pollen from flower to flower. They attract the bees by producing nectar, or sugar water, which gathers at the base of their petals.
As a forager bee crawls into a flower to sip the nectar through her long, straw-like tongue (called a proboscis), she brushes against the pods of pollen in the flower. The sticky grains of pollen cling to the hairs covering the bee’s entire body (they even have hair on their eyeballs!) The bee uses her front legs to brush the pollen into clumps to carry home in her pollen baskets (row of spikes on joints on her back legs). The pollen and nectar are carried back to the hive, where they are stored in cells. The nectar is then turned into honey, after being processed by the enzymes in the bee’s stomach, and dehydrated by the fanning of the bee’s wings.
The average forager visits 2,000 flowers every day. Because they work so quickly, not all the pollen makes it into the baskets, and some will fall onto the next flower visited by the bee. If even a single grain of pollen from a different flower of the same species falls down a flower’s pistil into the ovary (where the seeds are), then the flower is fertilized, or pollinated.
Once a fruit flower has been pollinated, the petals will shrivel up and fall off, and the ovary will swell up and transform into a piece of fruit! The seeds inside the fruit can be used to grow a new plant.