Pollination is more than bees

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Other creatures visit more flowers than bees do, and may be almost as important in pollinating crops.

Romina Rader at the University of New England in Armidale, Australia, and her colleagues analysed data from 39 field studies of pollination by honey bees, other bees and other insects, including flies, beetles, moths and ants. They found that other insects carried out 25–50% of all visits to crop flowers. Although these 'non-bees' were less effective at pollinating on each visit, their increased visits made them roughly as effective as bees.

Crops such as coffee and grapefruit were almost exclusively pollinated by bees, whereas crops such as custard apples and mangoes relied almost totally on other insects. Non-bees were also found to be less affected by changes to natural habitats, so the authors suggest that these insects might provide a more robust pollination service than bees do.

Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA (2015)

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