With all the hubbub over commercial honeybees and how vital they are to pollinating crops, it’s easy to forget about their wild cousins — the hundreds of un-managed bee species that still buzz all over the world. Many of these species are either endangered or significantly declining, but until now it’s been a little unclear how important they are to agriculture. Now, a new study reveals just how big a role wild bees also play in pollinating crops, and offers some surprising insight into the arguments conservationists should and should not use when advocating for their protection.
In a paper published last week in the journal Nature Communications, researchers used data from 90 studies to examine the impact of 785 different bee species on crops across five continents. The scientists revealed that wild bees contribute $3,251 per hectare to the production of crops through their pollination — giving them essentially the same economic value as commercial honeybees. But there’s an important catch: Out of the hundreds of wild bee species flitting around the country, only two percent of them account for 80 percent of all crop visits. In other words, just a few species do almost all the pollinating that wild bees are responsible for and account for almost all of their economic value.
In some ways, wild pollinators have already made it to the national stage, Ricketts says. Last month, the White House released its National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honeybees and Other Pollinators, which outlines strategies for conserving and protecting pollinators around the nation. While the document has a particular focus on honeybees and monarch butterflies, Ricketts says its suggestions — which include stricter regulations on pesticides and better natural habitats for insects — can be helpful to many species that don’t have a significant impact on agriculture. The same pesticides that are harmful to honeybees may be harmful to wild bees too, he says, and expanding gardens and wild spaces will only benefit all wild pollinators.
Full Story @ [The Washington Post]