Honey bees AND wild pollinators need your help. Join the movement for some sweet rewards.
Gardeners know that good pollination makes for better crops of tomatoes, cucumbers, apples and raspberries. European honey bees come to mind as the most important pollinator. And that is especially true for certain commercial crops like almonds that need to have 1 million honey bee hives brought to California’s Central Valley to provide pollination for 60 million trees (supporting 80% of the world’s almond production). But wild bees, beetles, flies, butterflies, moths, birds and bats also are critical in moving pollen from the male to the female parts of flowers for fruit and seed setting.
This point was affirmed last month in a massive international study of 600 sites in 20 countries involving 41 crops published in Science. It found that wild insects are more important than we may have thought for crop pollination and that honey bees cannot replace the value and importance of wild pollinators. Science reported, “wild insects pollinated crops more effectively, because an increase in their visitation enhanced fruit set by twice as much as an equivalent increase in honey bee visitation. Further, visitation by wild insects and honey bees promoted fruit set independently, so high abundance of managed honey bees supplemented, rather than substituted for, pollination by wild insects.”
So our gardens and farms need BOTH wild insect and honey bee pollinators.
Nearly 20 years ago I read that Albert Einstein (the physicist, rather than the entomologist, but still a deep thinker about global issues) said to the National Union of French Apiculture, "if the bee disappears off the surface of the earth, man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man." I don’t know if he was thinking about wild bees or cultivated honey bee or both. This new research indicates the answer is both. The study reported in Science shows the pollinator services provided by wild insects can add to the pollinating power of honey bees. In fact, both wild insects and honey bees are needed to maximize crop production, and the ongoing decline of wild insects due to habitat loss, whether from land conversion to farms or suburbs, will reduce harvests as Einstein warned. Read the rest of this entry »