Plants sustain the continuity of their species through generative reproduction either with seeds or through vegetative reproduction that uses suckers, bulbs, or tubers. We can observe these methods of reproduction in nature, but we tend to overlook how wonderfully these processes are carried out without any failure and, perhaps due to their small size, we underestimate the role that seeds play on the planet. The importance of the seeds is indicated in the Qur’an: Have you ever considered the seed you sow (in the ground)? Is it you who cause it to grow, or is it We Who make it grow? If We so willed, We would surely make it into chaff, and then you would not cease to exclaim: “We are indeed in a great loss” (Waqia 56:63–65).
Many important characteristics exist in seeds. Seeds are equipped with all the necessary information about the branches and leaves of the plant which they will become, as well as the number and shape of these leaves. Within the seed is programmed the color, fineness or thickness of the bark, the number and width of the tubes that carry food and water, whether the plant will bear fruit or not, and if it bears fruit, the taste, smell, shape and color of this fruit. Even information about how the plant will react to a negative condition in the environment during normal development is registered in this program. For example, a plant that would normally develop under ideal climatic conditions is programmed to produce seeds in a short term to protect reproduction under unsuitable conditions like drought and great heat. God is He Who splits the seed-grain and the fruit-stone (so that they germinate by His command). He brings forth the living from the dead, and He is One Who brings forth the dead from the living; such is God: how then are you turned away from the truth and make false claims? (An’am 6:95)
If we consider the growth process of the plant from a seed that is equipped with perfect information, we can see that once the appropriate conditions have been created the seed first germinates and then the body and leaves are formed on this stem. When the time is right, flowers form in keeping with the divine order. The flowers that later form the fruit and seeds for further plants are either brought together with their own pollen (cleistogamy or self-pollenization) or with other pollen from another plant of the same type (cross-pollination) in a perfectly organized system. Self-pollenization occurs either before the flower opens or after the pollen has developed. Because the pistil and stamens of some plants are hidden by some other parts of the plant, it is difficult for the pollen to reach here, so the plant obeys what is ordered and self-pollinates.
In cross-pollination, plants use the pollen from another plant of their own species. Pollen transportation occurs with the help of the wind, rain or insects that visit flowers.
The flowers of many plants that are pollinated by the wind and rain are very modest in appearance, but they have been created in a way to produce pollen in abundance. Although most of the pollen that is carried away by the wind and rain are destroyed, this lost pollen organically enriches the soil and at least some of this pollen will find a flower to pollinate. Our Lord has bestowed those flowers that are pollinated by insects with various colors and shapes to attract these visitors. During pollination, the pollen of flowers that have less pollen than the self-pollinating flowers are carried by bees and other insects, whose legs, wings, and antennae have been created specifically for this task, as they have been inspired (Nahl 16:68–69). Nectar and pollen are the reward for these insects which provide pollination.
Bees are the most important group among the insects that carry out the task of pollination. When bees are mentioned, most people think of the honeybee, but bumblebees also serve mankind. In addition to the products they offer to us, bees are indispensable for their contributions to plant reproduction.
Bees store the nectar they have sucked from the flowers in a “honey stomach” and then empty this nectar into a honeycomb as honey. The bees legs, granted to them by the Creator, allows them in their duty of collecting pollen. The back legs of the bees are different from that of all other insects. The long hairs that are aligned on these stocky legs act almost like a basket to collect the pollen.
Of the 82 plant types that meet 90% of the human food needs around the world, 63 (77%) are pollinated by bees; without bees it would be impossible for these plants to produce seed. Bees are absolutely necessary for the formation of seeds in plants that we eat, like apples, pears, peaches, apricots, cherries, melons, watermelons or pumpkins, or indeed in those used in industry, like sunflowers, safflowers, rapeseed, cotton, or sugar beets, or those used for feeding livestock, like clover, sainfoin, red clover, or vetch. This task carried out by bee pollination every year throughout the world is much more important than the production of honey. Moreover, bees make life possible for animals from thousands of species who use these plants as food or shelter. We should not forget the connection Einstein drew between the disappearance of the bees from the ecosystem and Doomsday.
Another vital mission entrusted to bees is the prevention of erosion. Plants that need the pollination of bees, like members of the Asteraceae, Boraginaceae, Brassicaceae, Campanulaceae, Compositae and Fabaceae families, are widespread in areas were there are serious threats of erosion. Similarly, feed crops, which are very important in feeding livestock and preserving the ecological balance, also need insects for pollination. In plants like clover, the upper side of the flower organs is covered by a membrane; in these plants, bees break this membrane to get at the pollen; if it were not for bees, the pollen would remain trapped.
It is by Divine guidance that bees take nectar and pollen from the same type of plants all day. Even if there are other plants which contain more nectar and pollen, bees only stop at the type of flower that it first visited. The fact that bees collect nectar and pollen from the same type of plants all day long shows that this is not something they do randomly.
Like many other living things in the universe bees are in service to mankind, operating under the rules set by the Lord of the Worlds. However, activities that are carried out without investigating the meaning of the universe and the wisdom behind the creation of the living things, such as unplanned industrialization, which in turn has lead to an increase in air pollution, or the careless use of chemical materials, are the reason for a decrease in the population of bees, day by day. Never mind the wars and fires started by mankind, any venture that may cause the bees to disappear could lead to the destruction of mankind; if the bees become extinct, mankind will face many disasters, like erosion, desertification and the extinction of plants which are food for us and for the animals we raise.