Flower Visitors vs. Pollinators: no evidence that honey bees are the most important pollinator worldwide

Pollination is a complex process. It’s not as easy as an insect simply visiting a flower.

This is important to remember when talking about which species are the ‘best’ or ‘most important’ pollinators. Simply observing an animal visiting a flower is not, on its own, evidence that the animal is pollinating the flower.

Many insects (and other animals) visit flowers, to feed on pollen, nectar or other flower parts. Many of these interactions result in pollination…although some visitors are better pollinators than others. Some of these visitors commit floral larceny – they are robbers or thieves (there’s a difference!) of either pollen or nectar, and they leave without pollinating. Some might even damage flower parts so much that they indirectly affect the flower’s capacity to be pollinated by other visitors.

To know for sure that an insect is pollinating a particular flower, we first need to know what kind of reproductive system that flower has. Is it male, female or bisexual (containing both male and female parts)? Can it self-pollinate, or does it need to be outcrossed to another flower or plant of the same species? Once we know this, we then need to watch the behaviour of the insect that visits that flower. Does the insect visit one flower and fly away, or many flowers in a row? Does it move between plants? Does it actually touch the reproductive parts of the flower when it visits each flower? Continue reading

Great news for bees…

…with a new review published in the journal Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability!

The authors, including renowned UK bee expert Professor Dave Goulson, present the facts about neonicotinoids and pollinators. They discuss the background to the issue, and present evidence for how these pesticides really affect all insects, including bees. Most importantly, they also explain how previous ‘field tests’ that the big political decisions are being based on, “lack the statistical power” required to be considered as true ‘evidence’.

The authors conclude:

Their wide application, persistence in soil and water and potential for uptake by succeeding crops and wild plants make neonicotinoids bioavailable to pollinators in sublethal concentrations for most of the year.

Not only is this great news for bees, it also shows how imperative it is for governments and regulatory bodies to understand and critically assess ALL the evidence before implementing policy decisions.

© Manu Saunders 2013

Modern agriculture is stressing honeybees

I’ve just had this published at online news site The Conversation. Viva les pollinators!

Modern agriculture is stressing honeybees: let’s go native

Honeybees are in trouble – a stressful lifestyle and an unhealthy diet are being compounded by mite attacks – but we needn’t panic about pollination. Australia has many native bee (and other pollinator) species that could be taking care of business, if we only took better care of them.

What do we mean when we talk about “bees”?

For many, “bee” means the honeybee – any species in the genus Apis, the most well-known of which is Apis mellifera, the European honeybee. It is a generalist pollinator, which means it shows little preference when it chooses flowers to forage on. It could visit (and potentially pollinate) almost any open flower in its foraging range. It is also adaptable to a wide range of environments and is capable of being “domesticated”.

Read the rest of the article

P1010696

© Manu Saunders 2013