Other Pollinators

Pollination of Foxglove by Bumble Bee Honey bees, butterflies and birds aren't the only animals that pollinate plants. We often overlook or lump together all other pollinators – beetles, wasps, moths, ants, flies and mosquitoes. These other pollinators play a major role in crop production and they're not as affected by environment changes as bees.

A lot of pollinator-dependent crops are increasingly grown for our food, fiber, and fuel. And while the honey bee (Apis mellifera) is versatile and ubiquitous, relying on a single pollinator species is a risky strategy. Poor nutrition, parasites, and diseases threaten the health of honey bee colonies managed around the world. Yet, we haven’t really explored the potential of other pollinators for contributing to crop production, even though they seem to be more robust to changes in land use.

Non-bee insects were less effective pollinators than bees per flower visit, but they made more visits to flowers than bees. So overall, they offered similar total pollination services: Honey bees make up 39 percent, non-bees make up 38 percent, and other bees accounted for 23 percent.

While bees rely on habitats that support their host plants and nesting sites, non-bee insects are less affected by the loss of their natural habitats. That likely makes their services more robust to anthropogenic land use changes – which is thought to be one of the main drivers of bee declines.