Although vanilla beans are grown in several locations today, Mexico maintained a monopoly on vanilla beans until the 1800s despite the fact that explorers constantly uprooted the orchid vines to replant in their native lands. Botanists finally came to realize that melipone bees, native only to Mexico, were pollinating the flowers. Eventually, a man on Reunion Island discovered that the pointed stick of a bamboo shoot could be used to hand-pollinate the flowers. Once this was discovered, France planted vanilla on many of the tropical islands they ruled. To this day, former French colonies within about 25 degrees of the equator (with their warm, tropical climates) produce about 80% of the world’s vanilla.