Bees Aren’t Our Only Pollinators

Ecologist at University of Queensland, Australia, says almost any insect can pollinate crops.

by Cari Jorgensen
PHOTO: nicholashan/iStock/Thinkstock

For quite some time now the bee decline has been in the news. Bees are a major pollinator of our crops. However, they’re not the only pollinators. University of Queensland ecologist Margie Mayfield told Scientific American, “Almost any kind of insect you can think of [can pollinate crops]. Globally speaking flies are probably the second largest group of crop pollinators. In particular a group called hoverflies, or syrphid flies. And these are these large-eyed flies that if you take a hike you sometimes see them hovering in front of your face.” In addition to hoverflies, ants, beetles, butterflies, moths and wasps are also excellent pollinators.

Researchers, including Mayfield, looked at 36 pollination studies that focused on “17 crop plants grown on five continents.” After analyzing the data, the team found that these other pollinators accounted for 40 percent of flower visits and tropical crops such as mangoes and custard apples did not rely on bees for pollination at all. Canola also did well without bee pollination. The study strives to let farmers know that bees are not the only pollinators crops need.

The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Click here to read it in full.

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