BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Vital pollinators, bees have been buzzing around media articles for the past year, bringing awareness about the dramatic plummeting in population. A plethora of factors collided causing the honeybees to experience a drastic reduction, but a new study shows they are not the be-all and end-all of crop pollination.
Scientists found there are many other insects that are almost as important – even though much less appreciated – in the process of pollination. In a recent survey, researchers at the University of Queensland reviewed the findings published in 39 field studies in order to determine if butterflies, moths, flies, ants, and other insects contribute significantly to pollination.
Five continents were covered in the synthesized research articles, including 1,739 field plant crops studies. It turns out that bees share the burden of pollination with a lot of other insects, causing scientists to call their help “under appreciated by farmers.”
A recent press release of Margie Mayfield, a plant ecologist at Queensland, said that such scientific findings should promote significant changes in agricultural practices, encouraging farmers to pay more attention to the entire well-oiled machine that makes pollination happen.
According to Mayfield and her team, the fact that the global bee populations are currently experiencing tough times should raise the stakes for protecting other pollinators, the insects that could keep the ball rolling. Non-bee pollinators are a safe insurance against the severe decline in bee populations.
Mayfield explained how risky it is that the global burden of pollination relies on the tiny and tired shoulders of the honeybees; the threats to the health of honeybees populations are increasing, mostly due to diseases and pests, but also because of colony collapse disorder.
After analyzing the field studies, researchers discovered that non-bee insects are responsible for as much as 50 percent of flower pollination. Even though bees remain the most efficient pollinators, these other insects make up for the lack in efficiency with extra visits.
Crops pollinated by non-bee insects increased in fruit set – regardless of how often they were visited by bees – suggesting that non-bee pollinators can offer a unique benefit that bees don’t. At the same time, researchers found that ants, butterflies and other insects are far less sensitive to habitat fragmentation than bees.
Published in the journal PNAS, the findings are an important reminder to farmers that they may be hurting the overall pollination process when they use pesticides safe for bees but not for other flies.
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