College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

Wild Bees Are Good For Crops, But Crops Are Bad For Bees

March 4, 2013

Dan Charles, National Public Radio

A huge collaboration of bee researchers, from more than a dozen countries, looked at how pollination happens in dozens of different crops, including strawberries, coffee, buckwheat, cherries and watermelons. As they report in the journal Science, even when beekeepers installed plenty of hives in a field, yields usually got a boost when wild, native insects, such as bumblebees or carpenter bees, also showed up.

... Many bee researchers are trying to figure out how to help those native bees — and how to help farmers who benefit from them.

Claire Kremen, a conservation biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who's a co-author of the first study in Science, says one of the biggest problems for wild bees is the agricultural specialization that has produced huge fields of just one crop.

The almond groves of California, for example, are a sea of blossoms in February. It's a feast, as far as the eye can see, for honeybees that come here from all over the country.

"But for the rest of the year, there's nothing blooming," she says.

That means there are no bees. "In fact, in places where we have very large monocultures of almond, we don't find any native bees anymore," Kremen says.

Planting other flowers in and around these almond groves, maybe as hedgerows, blooming all summer long, would help, she says.

Listen to the audio and read the full story at the source.

Related stories:

"Loss of wild pollinators serious threat to crop yields, study finds," The Guardian (UK)

"Farmers' lack of bees might be solved by going wild," Los Angeles Times

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