Brief Communication

Tropical agriculture: The value of bees to the coffee harvest



The self-pollinating African shrub Coffea arabica, a pillar of tropical agriculture, was considered to gain nothing from insect pollinators1,2. But I show here that naturalized, non-native honeybees can augment pollination and boost crop yields by over 50%. These findings, together with world coffee-harvest statistics and results from field studies of organically shade-grown coffee, indicate that coffee plants would benefit from being grown in habitats that are suitable for sustaining valuable pollinators.

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  1. 1.

    Insect Pollination of Crops 2nd edn (Academic, London, 1993).

  2. 2.

    Int. Workshop Conserv. Sust. Use Pollinators (eds Kevan, P. G. & Imperatriz-Fonseca, V.) (Int. Bee Res. Assoc., Cardiff, in the press).

  3. 3.

    FAOSTAT online;

  4. 4.

    Science 201, 1030–1032 (1978).

  5. 5.

    Agroforest. Syst. 51, 131–139 (2001).

  6. 6.

    , & Agroforest. Syst. 53, 205–213 (2001).

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Author information

Competing interests

The author declares no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to David W. Roubik.


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