Bees not the be-all and end-all to pollination

Published 01 December 2015

Bees are well-documented as the most effective pollinators of crops world-wide.

However, the contributions by pollinators other than bees play a significant role in crop production and stability in the face of environmental change.

“Non-bee” insects such as flies, beetles, moths, butterflies, wasps and ants were researched in 39 different studies, across five continents to directly measure their pollination services in comparison to bees.

Hoverfly on watermelon in North America (Rachael Winfree)

Hoverfly on watermelon in North America (Rachael Winfree).

According to University of New England researcher Dr Romina Rader, the “non-bees” performed 25-50% of the total number of flower visits.

“Although non-bees were less effective pollinators than bees per flower visit, they provided slightly more visits; so these two factors compensated for each other resulting in similar pollination services,” Dr Rader said.

Dr Rader’s research suggests that both non-bee and bee insects are required f for optimal fruit production.

“What these results tell us is that the non-bee insects provide a unique benefit to fruit crops that is not provided by bees,” Dr Rader said.

Dr Rader’s research indicates that non-bee insect pollinators play a significant role in global crop production and respond differently than bees to the presence of natural vegetation in the landscape, a finding which has implications for changes in land use.

“Non-bee insects provide a valuable service and provide potential insurance against bee population declines,” Dr Rader explained.