It literally gets up the nose of millions of hay fever sufferers, making pollen a distinctly unpopular member of the floral world. But there are many reasons to love these gossamer grains. Pollen functions as plant sperm; if bees didn’t ship it to the flower’s ovules many of our favourite crops would vanish, including apples, strawberries and almonds. A crisis, however, is looming: bee populations are plummeting, with one bumblebee species declared endangered this year, prompting Europe to consider a ban on pesticides that harm bees. Amid fears pollination-dependent crops could be wiped out, Japanese scientists have invented a pollinating drone.

Then there is pollen’s indestructable shell, which is made from sporopollenin. Pollen preserved for up to 320 million years has told us where crops once grew and how the climate has changed. These days pollen also helps to solve crimes, with forensic botanists using it to connect bodies to suspects. When it comes to pollen, it might be time for a little more r.e.s.p.e.c.t.

Read the full article and checkout the photo gallery in Cosmos magazine here