The importance of the honey bee as a pollinator
Most hobby beekeepers keep bees for just that, a hobby. If you’re lucky, you might also get some surplus honey, but the honey bee also plays a key role in the balance of the world’s ecosystem and provides us with so much more than just honey.
A 2018 study showed that honey bees are the world’s most important single species of pollinator in natural ecosystems and without honey bees, the world would lose at least 1/3 of the crops we eat.
The honey bee can be found on all of the world’s continents except Antarctica, so quite unsurprisingly they provide pollination services for a hugely diverse set of agricultural crops and are the most frequent single species of pollinator for crops worldwide. The study also showed that the honey bee is the single most frequent visitor to flowers of naturally occurring (non-crop) plants worldwide (one out of eight interactions between a non-agricultural plant and a pollinator is carried out by the honey bee).
As a whole the honey bee “appears to be the most important, single species of pollinator across the natural systems studied, owing to its wide distribution, generalist foraging behaviour and competence as a pollinator”. This is why it is vitally important to monitor, research, understand and support the honey bee and other pollinators who are proven to be under threat currently. Present pollinator species extinction rates are 100 to 1 000 times higher than normal. Insects, and in turn vital pollinators, will likely make up the bulk of future biodiversity loss. Pests and diseases, as well as changes in land use and landscape structure, intensive agricultural practices, monocultures and use of pesticides have led to large-scale losses. Climate change has also had a hugely negative impact on the pollinator population by changing the flowering times of vital food sources, as well as increasing the spread of disease-causing pests.
Technology has the potential to play a crucial role in helping to protect our local pollinator communities. At Arnia, our sensors help beekeepers to monitor the health and welfare of honey bees 24/7 and can provide early warning for the onset of problems, which if left unchecked, could become a problem and threaten colony survival. When coupled with Polly™ for in-field pollinator monitoring, data can be used to maintain an optimal pollination level and environment which is good news for farmers, beekeepers and the rest of the planet.
Want to learn more about how technology is helping to reverse the decline in pollinators? Don’t forget to follow us on social media and see recent examples of data collected from our sensor network!
Hung Keng-Lou James, Kingston Jennifer M., Albrecht Matthias, Holway David A. and Kohn Joshua R. – 2018 The worldwide importance of honey bees as pollinators in natural habitats