Bees are the most effective crop pollinators world-wide, but new research confirms they are not the be-all and end-all.
This is because the contributions made by ‘non-bee’ pollinators also 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.
In Ireland, the most important non-bee pollinators are hoverflies.
According to the study published this week in the leading journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the “non-bees” performed 25-50% of the total number of flower visits.
Professor Jane Stout, from Trinity College Dublin’s School of Natural Sciences, co-authored the study. She said: “We know that non-bee insects are important pollinators of wild plants and this study shows that they are also important for crop production. Therefore, we can’t just concentrate on bee conservation and ignore other pollinators.”
“The All Ireland Pollinator Plan recognises the valuable service provided by non-bee pollinators and strives to conserve all pollinating insects on the island of Ireland.”
Dr Rader, lead author of the study, added: “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.”
The study also indicates that non-bee insect pollinators respond differently than bees to the presence of natural vegetation in the landscape, which has implications for changes in land use.
The article can be viewed here.