Non-bee insects are important contributors to global crop pollination.
ABSTRACT: Wild and managed bees are well documented as effective pollinators of global crops of economic importance. However, the contributions by pollinators other than bees have been little explored despite their potential to contribute to crop production and stability in the face of environmental change. Non-bee pollinators include flies, beetles, moths, butterflies, wasps, ants, birds, and bats, among others. Here we focus on non-bee insects and synthesize 39 field studies from five continents that directly measured the crop pollination services provided by non-bees, honey bees, and other bees to compare the relative contributions of these taxa. Non-bees performed 25-50% of the total number of flower visits. Although non-bees were less effective pollinators than bees per flower visit, they made more visits; thus these two factors compensated for each other, resulting in pollination services rendered by non-bees that were similar to those provided by bees. In the subset of studies that measured fruit set, fruit set increased with non-bee insect visits independently of bee visitation rates, indicating that non-bee insects provide a unique benefit that is not provided by bees. We also show that non-bee insects are not as reliant as bees on the presence of remnant natural or seminatural habitat in the surrounding landscape. These results strongly suggest that non-bee insect pollinators play a significant role in global crop production and respond differently than bees to landscape structure, probably making their crop pollination services more robust to changes in land use. Non-bee insects provide a valuable service and provide potential insurance against bee population declines.
Project description:Pollinators provide an important service in many crops. Managed honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) are used to supplement pollination services provided by wild bees with the assumption that they will enhance pollination, fruit set and crop yield beyond the levels provided by the wild bees. Recent declines in managed honey bee populations have stimulated interest in finding alternative managed pollinators to service crops. In the eastern U.S., managed hives of the native common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens Cresson) may be an excellent choice. To examine this issue, a comprehensive 2-yr study was conducted to compare fruit yield and bee visits to flowers in pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo L.) fields that were either supplemented with A. mellifera hives, B. impatiens hives or were not supplemented. We compared pumpkin yield, A. mellifera flower visitation frequency and B. impatiens flower visitation frequency between treatments. Results indicated that supplementing pumpkin fields with either A. mellifera or B. impatiens hives did not increase their visitation to pumpkin flowers or fruit yield compared with those that were not supplemented. Next, the relationship between frequency of pumpkin flower visitation by the most prominent bee species (Peponapis pruinosa (Say), B. impatiens and A. mellifera) and fruit yield was determined across all pumpkin fields sampled. Fruit yield increased as the frequency of flower visits by A. mellifera and B. impatiens increased in 2011 and 2012, respectively. These results suggest that supplementation with managed bees may not improve pumpkin production and that A. mellifera and B. impatiens are important pollinators of pumpkin in our system.
Project description:Flower signals of bee- and bird-pollinated plants have converged via pollinator-mediated evolution, driven by the visual system of their respective pollinators. For bird flowers, sensory exclusion of less effective bees is also important and such exclusion is also mediated by floral morphological filters. Likewise, other systems based on pollination by red-sensitive insects are also associated with red flowers displaying lower short-wavelength secondary peaks of reflectance, which decreases detectability to animals that are less sensitive to red, such as bees. These flowers often also present long tubes. Here, we tested a generalization of the bee-avoidance hypothesis in order to assess if it holds only for bird flowers or for other non-bee pollination systems as well. For this, we compared flower contrasts and spectral purity in bee visual systems as proxies for conspicuousness among four kinds of pollination systems: bee-visited flowers, insect-visited flowers (including bees and other insects), non-bee insect flowers (flowers visited by red-sensitive insects such as flies, butterflies and beetles, but not bees), and bird-visited flowers. We also assessed the association between conspicuousness to bees and flower depth, used as a proxy for morphological exclusion of bees. Overall, flower conspicuousness to bees differed only between insect (all three groups) and bird flowers, due to lower visual signals for the latter. This suggests that bee sensory exclusion via color signals is exclusive to bird flowers, while non-bee insect flowers might use other sensory channels to exclude bees, such as olfactory signals. Visual bee avoidance might be a mechanism exclusive to plants pollinated by specific guilds of red-sensitive insects not well represented in our sample. We also found a negative association between flower conspicuousness to bees and flower depth, suggesting an interplay of morphological and spectral traits in discouraging bee visits. Our results support the bee-avoidance hypothesis exclusively for bird flowers and an overall association between lower visual signals to bees and long tubes.
Project description:Wildflower strips (WFS) are increasingly used to counteract the negative consequences of agricultural intensification. To date, it is poorly understood how WFS promote flower visitation and pollination services in nearby insect-pollinated crops. We therefore ask whether WFS enhance pollination service in adjacent strawberry crops, and how such an effect depends on the distance from WFS. Over 2 years, we examined the effects of experimentally sown WFS compared to grassy strips on pollination services in adjacent strawberry (Fragaria ananassa) crops across a total of 19 study sites. Moreover, we examined flower visitation, species richness and community composition of the most important insect pollinator taxa at different within-field locations varying in distance to WFS. We found increased pollination services at the edge of WFS compared to locally reduced pollination services at the center, which resulted in no significant difference in seed set between WFS and control fields. Total flower visits and species richness of pollinators were higher in WFS than in adjacent strawberry fields. Moreover, wild bee visitation was enhanced in adjacent strawberry crops near WFS compared to field centers, and intermediate at field edges near grassy strips. Our study demonstrates that diverse WFS can increase wild bee visitation and pollination services in the field edges of adjacent strawberry crops, but that overall visitation and pollination services do not increase. Moreover, our findings show that major pollinator taxa exhibit distinct responses, resulting in a shift of pollinator community composition as a function of distance to WFS with direct effects on crop pollination. Our results that WFS enhance rather than reduce crop pollination services near WFS should distract possible concerns by farmers that WFS may locally absorb rather than export crop pollinators. Considering the spatial restricted enhancement of wild bees and associated pollination services we suggest to establish WFS in the center of crop fields.
Project description:Habitat destruction and fragmentation accelerate pollinator decline, consequently disrupting ecosystem processes such as pollination. To date, the impacts of multilevel spatial structure on pollination services have rarely been addressed. We focused on the effects of population spatial structure on the pollination services of Comarum palustre at three levels (i.e. within-population, between-populations and landscape). For three years, we investigated 14 Belgian populations, which differed in their within-population flower density, population surface, closure (i.e. proportion of the population edge that consisted of woody elements) and isolation (i.e. percentage of woody area cover within a 500 m radius from the population centre). We tested whether these spatial characteristics impact on pollinator abundance and visitation rate and thus, reproductive success of C. palustre. Insects were observed in 15 randomly-chosen plots in each population. We tested for pollen limitation with supplemental hand-cross pollination. Bumble bees and solitary bees were the major pollinators through all populations. Within populations, plots with high flower densities attracted high numbers of bumble bees and other insects. High bumble bee and solitary bee abundance was observed in populations presenting high proportions of woody edges and in populations within landscapes presenting high proportions of woody areas. Seed set resulting from open pollination varied with bumble bee and solitary bee visitation rate, leading to increased pollen limitation when pollinators were scarce. Since the reproductive success depended on the visitation rate of the main pollinators, which depended on multilevel spatial structure, wetland management plans should pay special attention to favour a mosaic of biotopes, including nesting sites and food resources for insects. This study particularly supports the relevance of a mix wetlands and woody habitats to bees.
Project description:The widespread use of protective covers in horticulture represents a novel landscape-level change, presenting the challenges for crop pollination. Honeybees (<i>Apis mellifera</i> L) are pollinators of many crops, but their behavior can be affected by conditions under covers. To determine how netting crop covers can affect honeybee foraging dynamics, colony health, and pollination services, we assessed the performance of 52 nucleus honeybee colonies in five covered and six uncovered kiwifruit orchards. Colony strength was estimated pre- and postintroduction, and the foraging of individual bees (including pollen, nectar, and naïve foragers) was monitored in a subset of the hives fitted with RFID readers. Simultaneously, we evaluated pollination effectiveness by measuring flower visitation rates and the number of seeds produced after single honeybee visits. Honeybee colonies under cover exhibited both an acute loss of foragers and changes in the behavior of successful foragers. Under cover, bees were roughly three times less likely to return after their first trip outside the hive. Consequently, the number of adult bees in hives declined at a faster rate in these orchards, with colonies losing on average 1,057 ± 274 of their bees in under two weeks. Bees that did forage under cover completed fewer trips provisioning their colony, failing to reenter after a few short-duration trips. These effects are likely to have implications for colony health and productivity. We also found that bee density (bees/thousand flowers) and visitation rates to flowers were lower under cover; however, we did not detect a resultant change in pollination. Our findings highlight the need for environment-specific management techniques for pollinators. Improving honeybee orientation under covers and increasing our understanding of the effects of covers on bee nutrition and brood rearing should be primary objectives for maintaining colonies and potentially improving pollination in these systems.
Project description:Pollinators are required for producing 15-30% of the human food supply, and farmers rely on managed honey bees throughout the world to provide these services. Yet honey bees are not always the most efficient pollinators of all crops and are declining in various parts of the world. Crop pollination shortages are becoming increasingly common. We found that behavioral interactions between wild and honey bees increase the pollination efficiency of honey bees on hybrid sunflower up to 5-fold, effectively doubling honey bee pollination services on the average field. These indirect contributions caused by interspecific interactions between wild and honey bees were more than five times more important than the contributions wild bees make to sunflower pollination directly. Both proximity to natural habitat and crop planting practices were significantly correlated with pollination services provided directly and indirectly by wild bees. Our results suggest that conserving wild habitat at the landscape scale and altering selected farm management techniques could increase hybrid sunflower production. These findings also demonstrate the economic importance of interspecific interactions for ecosystem services and suggest that protecting wild bee populations can help buffer the human food supply from honey bee shortages.
Project description:Pollinator declines, changes in land use and climate-induced shifts in phenology have the potential to seriously affect ecosystem function and food security by disrupting pollination services provided by insects. Much of the current research focuses on bees, or groups other insects together as 'non-bee pollinators', obscuring the relative contribution of this diverse group of organisms. Prominent among the 'non-bee pollinators' are the hoverflies, known to visit at least 72% of global food crops, which we estimate to be worth around US$300 billion per year, together with over 70% of animal pollinated wildflowers. In addition, hoverflies provide ecosystem functions not seen in bees, such as crop protection from pests, recycling of organic matter and long-distance pollen transfer. Migratory species, in particular, can be hugely abundant and unlike many insect pollinators, do not yet appear to be in serious decline. In this review, we contrast the roles of hoverflies and bees as pollinators, discuss the need for research and monitoring of different pollinator responses to anthropogenic change and examine emerging research into large populations of migratory hoverflies, the threats they face and how they might be used to improve sustainable agriculture.
Project description:Wild bees provide a free and potentially diverse ecosystem service to farmers growing pollination-dependent crops. While many crops benefit from insect pollination, soft fruit crops, including strawberries are highly dependent on this ecosystem service to produce viable fruit. However, as a result of intensive farming practices and declining pollinator populations, farmers are increasingly turning to commercially reared bees to ensure that crops are adequately pollinated throughout the season. Wildflower strips are a commonly used measure aimed at the conservation of wild pollinators. It has been suggested that commercial crops may also benefit from the presence of noncrop flowers; however, the efficacy and economic benefits of sowing flower strips for crops remain relatively unstudied. In a study system that utilizes both wild and commercial pollinators, we test whether wildflower strips increase the number of visits to adjacent commercial strawberry crops by pollinating insects. We quantified this by experimentally sowing wildflower strips approximately 20 meters away from the crop and recording the number of pollinator visits to crops with, and without, flower strips. Between June and August 2013, we walked 292 crop transects at six farms in Scotland, recording a total of 2826 pollinators. On average, the frequency of pollinator visits was 25% higher for crops with adjacent flower strips compared to those without, with a combination of wild and commercial bumblebees (Bombus spp.) accounting for 67% of all pollinators observed. This effect was independent of other confounding effects, such as the number of flowers on the crop, date, and temperature. Synthesis and applications. This study provides evidence that soft fruit farmers can increase the number of pollinators that visit their crops by sowing inexpensive flower seed mixes nearby. By investing in this management option, farmers have the potential to increase and sustain pollinator populations over time.
Project description:Ecological intensification provides opportunity to increase agricultural productivity while minimizing negative environmental impacts, by supporting ecosystem services such as crop pollination and biological pest control. For this we need to develop targeted management solutions that provide critical resources to service-providing organisms at the right time and place. We tested whether annual strips of early flowering phacelia Phacelia tanacetifolia support pollinators and natural enemies of seed weevils Protapion spp., by attracting and offering nectar and pollen before the crop flowers. This was expected to increase yield of red clover Trifolium pratense seed. We monitored insect pollinators, pests, natural enemies and seed yields in a total of 50 clover fields along a landscape heterogeneity gradient, over 2 years and across two regions in southern Sweden. About half of the fields were sown with flower strips of 125-2,000 m2. The clover fields were pollinated by 60% bumble bees Bombus spp. and 40% honey bees Apis mellifera. The clover seed yield was negatively associated with weevil density, but was unrelated to bee species richness and density. Flower strips enhanced bumble bees species richness in the clover fields, with the strongest influence in heterogeneous landscapes. There were few detectable differences between crop fields with and without flower strips. However, long-tongued bumble bees were redistributed toward field interiors and during phacelia bloom honey bees toward field edges. Clover seed yield also increased with increasing size of the flower strip. We conclude that annual flower strips of early flower resources can support bumble bee species richness and, if sufficiently large, possibly also increase crop yields. However, clover seed yield was mainly limited by weevil infestation, which was not influenced by the annual flower strips. A future goal should be to design targeted measures for pest control.
Project description:Highbush blueberry yields are dependent on pollination by bees, and introduction of managed honey bees is the primary strategy used for pollination of this crop. Complementary pollination services are also provided by wild bees, yet highbush blueberry is increasingly grown in regions outside its native range where wild bee communities may be less adapted to the crop and growers may still be testing appropriate honey bee stocking densities. To contrast crop pollination in native and non-native production regions, we sampled commercial 'Bluecrop' blueberry fields in British Columbia and Michigan with grower-selected honey bee stocking rates (0-39.5 hives per ha) to compare bee visitors to blueberry flowers, pollination and yield deficits, and how those vary with local- and landscape-scale factors. Observed and Chao-1 estimated species richness, as well as Shannon diversity of wild bees visiting blueberries were significantly higher in Michigan where the crop is within its native range. The regional bee communities were also significantly different, with Michigan farms having greater dissimilarity than British Columbia. Blueberry fields in British Columbia had fewer visits by honey bees than those in Michigan, irrespective of stocking rate, and they also had lower berry weights and a significant pollination deficit. In British Columbia, pollination service increased with abundance of wild bumble bees, whereas in Michigan the abundance of honey bees was the primary predictor of pollination. The proportion of semi-natural habitat at local and landscape scales was positively correlated with wild bee abundance in both regions. Wild bee abundance declined significantly with distance from natural borders in Michigan, but not in British Columbia where large-bodied bumble bees dominated the wild bee community. Our results highlight the varying dependence of crop production on different types of bees and reveal that strategies for pollination improvement in the same crop can vary greatly across production regions.