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Dec 01, 2015 12:32 PM EST

Pesticides Targeting Non-Bee Insects Harming Important Crop Pollinators

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Genetically modified apple

New research cautions against bee-friendly pesticides that target other insects because some of those insects are important crop pollinators.

Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the new study identified various non-bee insects as vital for the pollination of various fruits and plants.

"Scientists haven't broadly explored the role of non-bee insects in crop pollination," Margie Mayfield, a plant ecologist at the University of Queensland, said in a press release. "The global reliance on honeybees for pollination is a risky strategy given the threats to the health of managed honeybee populations due to pests and diseases such as varroa mites and colony collapse disorder.

"Non-bee insects are an insurance against bee population declines.

"We are trying to get the message out there to use scientific findings such as these to promote a change in agricultural practices."

The research for the study entailed an international team conducting 39 field studies with 17 crops on five different continents.

"Although non-bees were less effective pollinators than bees per flower visit, they provided slightly more visits," study research director Romina Rader, of the University of New England, said in the release. "These two factors compensated for each other, resulting in pollination services similar to bees.

"Fruit set in crops increased with non-bee insect visits, independently of bee visitation rates, indicating that non-bee insects provide a unique benefit not provided by bees," Rader said. "We also found that non-bee pollinators were less sensitive to habitat fragmentation than bees."

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