The real “busy bees”: A small subset of wild bees provide a large proportion of crop pollination


Project ICP researchers Rachael Winfree, Rufus Isaacs, Claire Kremen, Taylor Ricketts, Neal Williams, Elizabeth Elle, and Emily May, and ICP advisor Simon Potts, have co-authored a new meta-analysis published in Nature Communications exploring the contribution of wild bees to crop pollination across crops and regions. The researchers used data from 90 studies to examine the impact of 785 different bee species on crops across five continents, finding that wild bees provide pollination services to agricultural crops valued at $3,251 per hectare – roughly the same amount that managed honey bees contribute per hectare. However, the authors also found that only a small subset of the wild bees – approximately 2% of the surveyed species – are the “busy bees” responsible for this pollination, providing over 80% of wild bee visits to crop flowers.

Many of these dominant wild bee pollinators are easily enhanced by simple, cost-effective conservation measures, the authors write, noting that additional management beyond basic wildflower plantings is likely needed to promote threatened bees in agricultural landscapes.

To read more about this article, see the press release from the University of Vermont. The original article can be found here.