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Collateral Damage

Disappearing Wild Pollinators Spell Disaster

HoneybeeThe perilous decline of domestic honeybees due to the widespread occurrence of colony collapse disorder continues to make news, but wild bees and other insects are often overlooked, even though they are twice as effective in producing seeds and fruit on crops, according to a study of 41 crops in 600 fields worldwide by Argentina’s research network, CONICET. For the first time, scientists have a handle on the huge contribution of wild insects, showing that honeybees cannot replace the wild insects lost as their habitat is increasingly destroyed.

Study leader Lucas Garibaldi, of Argentina’s National University in Río Negro, says that relying on honeybees is a highly risky strategy, because disease can sweep through single species and it may not adapt to environmental changes as well as wild pollinators. Also, trucking in managed honeybee hives does not replace native pollinators, which visit more plants, resulting in more effective cross-pollination; honeybees tend to carry pollen from one flower to another on the same plant.

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