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Disappearance of Bees Threaten Livelihood of Crops, Study Finds

Update Date: Mar 01, 2013 10:50 AM EST

The disappearance of wild bumblebees and other common pollinators have left farmers worried about crops. According to new research, the benefits of pollination by wild pollinators way surpass the pollination by domesticated pollinators. Based from these findings, researchers concluded that the threat to crops might be even more severe than previously believed due to the loss of these wild insects. The study, published in the journal Science was headed by Lucas Garibaldi from the National University in Rio Negro, Argentina.

Garibaldi and a team of 46 members analyzed the pollination of over 40 crops within 600 fields throughout South America. They concluded based from the numbers that wild pollinators worked twice as efficiently on crops, such as oilseed rape, coffee, onions, almonds, tomatoes, and strawberries than honeybees. The researchers also observed that bringing in domesticated honeybees still did not make up for the pollination the wild insects contributed to.  Roughly three-fourths of the world's food crops rely on pollination and with the decline in bees resulting from diseases and pesticides, the amount of produce and the speed in which they are manufactured are jeopardized.

Scientists and researchers believe that wild bees pollinate more effectively than honeybees because they are born with a larger range of pollinating techniques. For example, wild bees often use "buzz pollination," which involves using the anthers to release pollen, which is very effective. In addition, wild bees have been recorded to cross-pollinate more often because they tend to visit more plants than the honeybees.

"It was astonishing; the result was so consistent and clear. We know wild insects are declining so we need to start focusing on them. Without such changes, the ongoing loss is destined to compromise agricultural yields worldwide," Garibaldi wrote.

Furthermore, Garibaldi stated that relying solely on honeybees to pollinate would not be as efficient, especially if the species contracts a common disease. It may be better and wiser to focus on keeping wild insects' populations alive. He added that "without wild pollination, you will not get the best yields and the best agricultural land already farmed, so it is very important to get the maximum yield."

Another study recently published that more than half of the wild bees disappeared in the United States during the 20th century. This number is alarming and it puts pressure on researchers and farmers to find ways to keep wild insects alive. 

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