Start A Petition

Wild Bees Boost Harvest More Than Honeybees

Green Lifestyle  (tags: harvest, bees, honeybees, discovery, eco-friendly, habitat, garden, environment, greenliving, conservation, green, protection, Sustainabililty, sustainable, healthy )

- 2030 days ago -
Honeybees may be sweet, but it's their wild cousins that give plants better sex -- and, consequently, higher crop yields.


We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.


Michael O (176)
Saturday March 2, 2013, 8:32 am
"Basically, the more of those wild insects there were, there more fruit was produced in that particular field," said Lawrence Harder, a University of Calgary biologist in an interview this week, "whereas for honeybees, that was only true for 14 per cent of the crops."

Harder was speaking about the results of an international study he co-authored, which was published online in the journal Science Express. It looked at the effect of honeybees and wild pollinators on yields of 41 crops in 600 fields in 20 countries, including a blueberry field on Prince Edward Island.

The crops included many grown in Canada, such as canola, strawberries, blueberries, pumpkin, tomatoes, onions, cranberries, sunflowers and red clover; as well as many familiar imports such as coffee, mango and almonds.

The findings suggest that the decline of wild insect pollinators could have a negative impact on plant yields, and that honeybees can't take the place of wild pollinators.

Many flowering plants require insects to transfer pollen — which contain sperm cells — to the female part of a flower in order to produce seeds, which are often enclosed in a fruit.

Honeybees, which aren't native to North America, are sometimes hired out and trucked from field to field in order to pollinate farmers' fields.

However, many wild insects serve as pollinators also. Most of them are among the 20,000 species of bees, such as bumblebees, mason bees, and many that are less familiar.

"Most bees are kind of a centimetre long, and most people would think they were a fly or something," Harder said.

He added that flies such as hoverflies and, to a much lesser extent, butterflies also act as pollinators.

It's not clear why honeybees aren't as effective pollinators as other insects, since the study found that they actually transfer more pollen than wild pollinators.

However, Harder said it may be that honeybees may have a greater tendency to promote plant inbreeding, which may lead to fewer viable offspring in the form of seeds.

Because plants are hermaphroditic, that allows for "the extremely close form of inbreeding of mating with yourself," also known as self-pollination, Harder said.

"Honeybees may tend to move more between flowers on same plant, resulting in self-pollination, whereas the wild insects visit a fewer number of flowers on an individual plant before they move to the next plant."

Unfortunately, Harder said, there is evidence that many wild pollinators are on the decline.

A new study by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, also published in Friday's issue of Science, compared the bees and flowering plants near Carlinville, Il. In the late 1800s with those that existed in 2009 and 2010 and found half the bees associated with 26 spring-blooming flowers had disappeared. Meanwhile, some pollinators no longer visited their plants as often and those that did visit weren't carrying as much pollen.

Many wild pollinators nest in the ground or in hollow twigs, and their nesting sites may be disturbed when fields are plowed, harvested or otherwise worked for agriculture, Harder said.

While farmers may be tempted to clear and plant all available agricultural land, the study suggests that leaving patches of land in their natural state could improve the yields of some crops by providing habitat for wild pollinators, Harder said.

"Canola and fruit crops would benefit from this kind of practice of leaving more natural area for native flowering plants and for the stability of nesting areas."

The study was led by Lucas Garibaldi, a researcher at the National University of Río Negro in Argentina. In addition to Harder, its 50 authors included one other Canadian, Steven Javorek, a Kentville, N.S.-based scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, who conducted the part of the study involving a blueberry field in P.E.I.


Teresa W (782)
Saturday March 2, 2013, 8:34 am

Emma Blydenburgh (0)
Saturday March 2, 2013, 8:45 am
Wow. Thanks Michael O. for plenty to think about.

Rose Becke (141)
Saturday March 2, 2013, 2:28 pm

Billie C (2)
Saturday March 2, 2013, 9:56 pm
we have a few honey bees that come to our yard but mostly we get native bees. i plant a wild flower bed for them and the butterflies. the wild birds love the seeds.
our garden has never had a problem with flowers not getting fertilized.
plus the native bees are pretty.

Jerry B (128)
Saturday March 2, 2013, 10:01 pm
Noted very interesting ..thanks Michelle.

Jerry B (128)
Saturday March 2, 2013, 10:07 pm
Noted and sorry Michael O, typed the wrong name!

Past Member (0)
Saturday March 2, 2013, 11:00 pm
Interesting , noted , thanks michael .

Robert O (12)
Sunday March 3, 2013, 12:48 am
Thanks Michael.

Giana Peranio - Paz (398)
Sunday March 3, 2013, 1:11 am
We have wild bees around here, in Haifa, but I seldom see them these days. My cats get stung at least once in their lives (until they learn better) trying to catch them.

Magdika Cecilia Perez (131)
Sunday March 3, 2013, 1:11 am
thank you

Magdika Cecilia Perez (131)
Sunday March 3, 2013, 1:11 am
thank you

Pogle S (88)
Sunday March 3, 2013, 1:50 am
Interesting story, we definitely need all of our wild pollinators that's for sure!

Nimue Michelle Pendragon Gaze (339)
Sunday March 3, 2013, 2:34 am

S S (0)
Sunday March 3, 2013, 3:13 am
Thank you.

Kath P (9)
Sunday March 3, 2013, 4:10 am
Plant flowers and they will come ;-)
Remember that you can 'cash in' your butterfly credits to buy bees

Tanya W (65)
Sunday March 3, 2013, 4:56 am
I love bees. They are the marvels of the insect world!!! Have saved many and have planted wattle, mock oranges and bottlebrushes to feed them. Native bees swarm around our macadamia nut (Qld Nut) tree when in blossom.

Wendé Maunder (9)
Sunday March 3, 2013, 5:14 am
I have a wild flower 'meadow' where my lawn used to be in the hope of encouraging more pollinators. People just do not realise how vital ANY insects who pollinate plants are to humankind's continued existence. They are not helped by the fact that many commercial crops are routinely sprayed with lethal insecticides which make no distinction between 'good' or 'bad' insects. When will we EVER learn?

Julie P (154)
Sunday March 3, 2013, 7:42 am
When people state that the price of organic produce is too high, my response is imagine how high food costs will be if we kill off the pollinators given that 30% of our food and 90% of wild plants require pollination.

"The British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) estimates that if people were to take over the job of pollination from bees in the UK, it would require a workforce of 30 million."

Bees are obviously going to gravitate to food sources, so why would they remain in areas where monoculture only provides nectar or pollen a few weeks of the year?

I have many different kinds of bees. I attribute this to the fact that my Province has banned many pesticides, I have never used any pesticides myself, I grow many native plants and ensure I have many different plants in bloom from spring through fall.

Julie P (154)
Sunday March 3, 2013, 7:54 am
I forgot to add ensuring you provide optimal habitats for wild bees. Some areas of the garden left wild etc. Here's a link where you can learn more:

Thanks for the post Michael.

Lindsay K (6)
Sunday March 3, 2013, 9:59 am
So perhaps a few poppies and cornflowers etc in the field might just attract more bees, and give an even greater yield? Just a thought.

. (0)
Sunday March 3, 2013, 12:46 pm
Neocotinoids affect all insects good and bad and I think they are the number one cause of the majority of bee problems. All bees are important.

Joy M (167)
Sunday March 3, 2013, 1:29 pm
We need all bees.. Thank you for posting Michael..noted

greenplanet e (155)
Sunday March 3, 2013, 5:46 pm
It's good to have wild/indigenous bees and plants.

Gvapo T (22)
Tuesday March 5, 2013, 1:50 am
good article
Or, log in with your
Facebook account:
Please add your comment: (plain text only please. Allowable HTML: <a>)

Track Comments: Notify me with a personal message when other people comment on this story

Loading Noted By...Please Wait


butterfly credits on the news network

  • credits for vetting a newly submitted story
  • credits for vetting any other story
  • credits for leaving a comment
learn more

Most Active Today in Green Lifestyle

Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of or its affiliates.

New to Care2? Start Here.