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The Department of Entomology
The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
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Non-bee insects are important contributors to global crop pollination

Citation:

Rader, R. ; Bartomeus, I. ; Garibaldi, L. A. ; Garratt, M. P. D. ; Howlett, B. G. ; Winfree, R. ; Cunningham, S. A. ; Mayfield, M. M. ; Arthur, A. D. ; Andersson, G. K. S. ; et al. Non-bee insects are important contributors to global crop pollination. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2016, 113, 146–151.

Abstract:

Many of the world’s crops are pollinated by insects, and bees are often assumed to be the most important pollinators. To our knowledge, our study is the first quantitative evaluation of the relative contribution of non-bee pollinators to global pollinator-dependent crops. Across 39 studies we show that insects other than bees are efficient pollinators providing 39% of visits to crop flowers. A shift in perspective from a bee-only focus is needed for assessments of crop pollinator biodiversity and the economic value of pollination. These studies should also consider the services provided by other types of insects, such as flies, wasps, beetles, and butterflies—important pollinators that are currently overlooked.Wild and managed bees are well documented as effective pollinators of global crops of economic importance. However, the contributions by pollinators other than bees have been little explored despite their potential to contribute to crop production and stability in the face of environmental change. Non-bee pollinators include flies, beetles, moths, butterflies, wasps, ants, birds, and bats, among others. Here we focus on non-bee insects and synthesize 39 field studies from five continents that directly measured the crop pollination services provided by non-bees, honey bees, and other bees to compare the relative contributions of these taxa. Non-bees performed 25–50% of the total number of flower visits. Although non-bees were less effective pollinators than bees per flower visit, they made more visits; thus these two factors compensated for each other, resulting in pollination services rendered by non-bees that were similar to those provided by bees. In the subset of studies that measured fruit set, fruit set increased with non-bee insect visits independently of bee visitation rates, indicating that non-bee insects provide a unique benefit that is not provided by bees. We also show that non-bee insects are not as reliant as bees on the presence of remnant natural or seminatural habitat in the surrounding landscape. These results strongly suggest that non-bee insect pollinators play a significant role in global crop production and respond differently than bees to landscape structure, probably making their crop pollination services more robust to changes in land use. Non-bee insects provide a valuable service and provide potential insurance against bee population declines.

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