Wild bees boost crop yields

Bumble bees play an important role in pollinating apple trees and other crops. Credit: Hugo

Honeybees get most of the attention, but wild bees also play an important role in pollinating some crops. A recent study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B found that for six crops grown in the United States — including watermelons and apples — native pollinators add about $1.5 billion to their yields.

“To me, the big surprise was that we found so many wild bees even in intense production areas where much of the produce in the USA is grown,” co-author Rachael Winfree, a pollination ecologist at Rutgers University, told Science News.

Researchers found wild bees were adding to the work that honeybees did, boosting farmers’ yields for watermelons, apples, blueberries, pumpkins and sweet and tart cherries. Some Pennsylvania farmers relied exclusively on wild bees for their pollination.

The finding raises concerns about how threats to wild bees could affect farmers’ profits, researchers concluded.

Read more in Science News.