As bee populations plummet, other pollinators step up

A study from the University of Queensland in Australia suggests that bees may not be the only important pollinators in the agricultural world.

Bees have been receiving attention from conservationists and environmentalists in recent years for their dwindling populations worldwide and their key role in pollinating the world’s food supplies. According to a UPI report, however, bees may not be the only pollinator we need to be worried about. A recent study from the University of Queensland in Australia seeks to highlight the importance of other species that provide just as much pollination as bees can.

The study analyzed 39 different field surveys to try and determine what role flies, ants, butterflies, moths, and other insects play in the pollination of vegetation. The field studies gathered data on 1,739 plant crops studies across five different continents.

The study found that while bees are receiving the majority of the press on pollination, they are certainly not alone in the task. According to researcher Margie Mayfield, a plant ecologist from the University of Queensland, the message that bees are not necessarily the sole pollinator in a lot of cases could significantly change the way farmers view insects and the pollination process as a whole.

While the risks facing bee populations are well known, ranging from climate change to colony collapse disorder to increased use of neonicotinoid pesticides on farms throughout the world, many other insects that play just as big of a role face the same threats. Mayfield argues that non-bee insects are just as important as bees, acting as an insurance policy against heavy declines in bee populations.

“Fruit set in crops increased with non-bee insect visits, independently of bee visitation rates, indicating that non-bee insects provide a unique benefit not provided by bees. We also found that non-bee pollinators were less sensitive to habitat fragmentation than bees.

A press release from the University of Queensland outlining the details of the study may be found here.

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