01 Mar 2013:
Loss of Wild Pollinators
Affecting Global Crop Production
Research data from 600 fields in 20 countries shows that wild bees and insects are more effective pollinators than domesticated honey bees, suggesting that the continuing loss of wild insects in many agricultural landscapes has negative consequences for crop harvests.
Reporting in Science
, an international team of 50 scientists analyzed data from 41 crop systems around the world. They found that widespread development and modern agricultural techniques that use every available hectare of land decrease the number of key pollinators, such as wild bees, butterflies, and beetles. As the numbers and diversity of these pollinators decreases, flowering plants receive fewer visits from these insects, resulting in lower production of important crops such as tomatoes, melons, and coffee. The researchers said that using domesticated or managed honey bees did not make up for the loss of wild bees and insects. The study suggests new practices to preserve natural or semi-natural areas to support wild pollinators. “Paradoxically, most common approaches to increase agricultural efficiency . . . reduce the abundance and variety of wild insects that could increase production of these crops,” said biologist Lawrence Harder of the University of Calgary.