A recent study has found that 80% of crop pollination is carried out by just 2% of the commonest wild bee species. Wild bee pollination has been valued at £1bn per year for the UK, an ecosystem service that could be lost as the climate changes.
Scientists from the University of Reading say we must strive to conserve high species diversity. In the future we may need to plant different crops to meet the challenges of environmental change; the few species of bee we currently rely on for pollination may not be able to pollinate these different crops. It is, therefore, essential to ensure food security into the future by taking action now to ensure we have high species diversity in wild bee populations.
It is feared that too much focus on the services currently delivered by bees could lead to the neglect of rarer species that may become much more important in the future. At the moment, the commonest species of wild bee, such as some species of bumblebee and solitary bees, are the most important for crop pollination. This is described as “win-win situation” by Prof. Pat Willmer at the University of St Andrews, relatively cheap and easy conservation measures can be put in place to support bee populations and these will have maximum benefit for crops.
Conservation measures may include planting wildflowers favoured by bees, such as Greater Knapweed and Wild Mignonette, and creating wide grassy margins around crop fields. In addition, promoting organic or less intensive farming practices would be very beneficial for bee species.
Sources: BBC News. Online. June 2015