At RDG we have been promoting the enhancement of pollinator habitat and designing solutions such as pollinator strips in fields and so it is always nice to see another study backing up our designs. In a paper titled Wild Pollinators Enhance Fruit Set of Crops Regardless of Honey Bee Abundance (Garibaldi et al. Science, March 2013) show that wild pollinators are twice as effective at pollinating crops as honeybees.
The editors at Science Magazine say:
“Honeybees Can’t Do It Alone:The majority of food crops require pollination to set fruit with the honeybee providing a pollination workhorse, with both feral and managed populations an integral component of crop management. Garibaldi et al. now show that wild pollinators are also a vital part of our crop systems. In more than 40 important crops grown worldwide, wild pollinators improved pollination efficiency, increasing fruit set by twice that facilitated by honeybees.”
A Pollinator Strip looks like a wildflower meadow that provides habitat to insects critical for pollination and pest management. Image from RDG’s Trustees of Reservations Battle Road Farms Concept Plan.
Providing habitat for pollinating insects, especially bees, is critical for growing food crops. A pollinator strip creates an area of flowering plants and shrubs that provide pollen and nectar throughout the growing season as well as undisturbed habitat for pollinator nesting. In addition to pollinators, there are insect predators and parasites, known as beneficial insects, that can control pest populations in agricultural crops. Predatory beneficial insects are more likely to thrive in undisturbed areas, or strips, that provide overwintering habitat, flowers to support their survival and reproduction, and refuge from pesticide applications in crops. Natural predator populations can then control pest populations in nearby crop fields or other plantings. Beneficial insects may be conserved with the same plantings that support pollinators.