Wild bees mixing with honey bees leads to better pollination across crops.
A new study just released says there is a imbalance in the populations of wild bees in the areas where they are most needed to pollinate crops for food production, according to a story on latimes.com.
Bee population decline is not a new story. A White House effort last year looked at the problem of honey bee colonies collapsing, calling for a national evaluation of the populations and locations of wild honey bee populations, and the creation of about 7 million acres of habitat for the bees.
Researchers gathered the data from top entomologists, and devised a model that makes predictions about the lives and movements of wild bees across different types of land and crops in the lower 48 states.
Then they evaluated the location of abundant bee populations and cross referenced the areas that needed the bees for pollination, based on the types of crops being cultivated, and found the problem to one of supply and demand. In short, the where the bees are needed most is not where the abundance of bees are located.
Increased gaps between the bees and the crops that need them appear to be caused at least partially by over-cultivation of the crops that depend on the bees and destroying the bee’s natural habitats.
UC Davis entomologist Neal Williams, one of the authors of the study said, California is a state with a huge dependence on pollination, and the intensive agriculture had challenged the wild bee population within the state a lot.
Growers import honey bees to pollinate their crops at great expense to the growers. Wild bees increase the efficiency of pollination by the honey bees, and studies have shown that factor adds as much as $3 billion to the country’s agricultural production.
Williams adds even modest numbers of wild bees can make the honey bees a better pollinator, and that the wild bees change the behavior of the honey bees, causing them to move more between varieties, transporting better pollen.
Study co-author Taylor Ricketts, a landscape ecologist at the University of Vermont, said the results could be a warning to growers that they are too dependent on commercial honey bees and needed to diversify their portfolios.