Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Loss of wild insects hurts crops around the world

Seed Daily via SPX: Researchers studying data from 600 fields in 20 countries have found that managed honey bees are not as successful at pollinating crops as wild insects, primarily wild bees, suggesting the continuing loss of wild insects in many agricultural landscapes has negative consequences for crop harvests.

The study, which prompts an urgent call to maintain and manage pollinator diversity for long-term agricultural production, is published today in the prestigious journal Science.

The 50 international researchers, including Lawrence Harder, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences in the Faculty of Science at the University of Calgary, analysed data from 41 crop systems around the world including fruits, seeds, nuts, and coffee to examine the consequences of having abundant wild pollinators for crop pollination.

"Our study demonstrates that production of many fruit and seed crops that make diets interesting, such as tomatoes, coffee and watermelon, is limited because their flowers are not adequately pollinated," says Harder. "We also show that adding more honey bees often does not fix this problem, but that increased service by wild insects would help."

Flowers of most crops need to receive pollen before making seeds and fruits, a process that is enhanced by insects that visit flowers. These pollinators, including bees, flies, butterflies and beetles, usually live in natural or semi-natural habitats, such as the edges of forests, hedgerows or grasslands. As these habitats are lost, primarily owing to conversion to agriculture, the abundance and diversity of pollinators decline and crops receive fewer visits from wild insects....

"Broad-bottom drones storming the hive - wasps, hornets & bumble bees, joining in the attack", by James Gillray (died 1815), published by Hannah Humphrey (floruit 1778). This set of images was gathered by Dcoetzee from the National Portrait Gallery, London website using a special tool. All images in this batch have been confirmed as author died before 1939 according to the official death date listed by the NPG.

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