Learning Our ABC’s About Pollinators
overall up to 40 percent of crop yields can be lost due to pests and
diseases, crop protection is an absolute necessity. As some of the
products farmers use to control pests can potentially affect bees, how
do we balance the need to protect our food with our desire to protect
pollinators? And how do we get optimal crop production on the limited
land available to agriculture, while leaving other areas to nature?
Let’s explore this topic a bit more in what I’m calling the “ABCs” of pollinators
Apis mellifera is economically important. There are relatively few species belonging to the genus Apis, better known as honey bees, but one of them in particular, the Western Honey Bee, Apis mellifera, brings great value to agriculture and is economically the most important of all the pollinators worldwide. While managed honey bee populations are constantly increasing, in some regions their health is under pressure from pests and diseases, poor nutrition, loss of genetic diversity, and changing weather patterns and landscapes. Because of their vital role in farming, we conduct extensive safety tests and specify stewardship measures to ensure pesticides can be safely used without harming honey bee colonies. The success of this effort is evident in surveys and monitoring programs in various countries, which show that pesticides rank low on the list of top concerns expressed by beekeepers and that harmful incidents are not only rare, but have been declining over several decades.
Biodiversity matters. Most people enjoy the aesthetic value of a diverse landscape, which provides habitats with a rich variety of animal and plant species. Almost 90 percent of all flowering plants worldwide are at least partly reliant on pollination by insects and other animals. Pollinator diversity in the agricultural landscape can also have a positive impact on crop production, yet of the estimated 20,000 species of wild bees, only about 2 percent are involved in the pollination of 80 percent of the crops grown worldwide. Bumble bees, mason bees and leafcutter bees are among the most important non-Apis species used for managed pollination in farming. Some crops are better pollinated and produce better yields in the presence of a diverse pollinator community. Unfortunately, unless effective measures are taken, many modern farm and urban landscapes do not provide an adequate habitat for many pollinator species.
Head of Bayer Bee Care Center
Learning Our ABC’s About Pollinators
Collaboration and conservation are key. Studies show that changes in the landscape structure, caused by farming or urban development, can seriously degrade the habitats of many wild bee species. That’s why Bayer is working with many stakeholders to improve habitats for pollinators. For example, in less than one year, our North American Feed a Bee program has funded nearly 130 projects to increase forage for pollinators in 45 states, working with many organizations and individuals. And since 2010, Bayer has been part of an on-going collaborative project with German nature conservation institutes to study how ecological enhancement measures to farm landscapes, such as the use of wildflower strips and structural changes, can dramatically increase species diversity and the abundance of wild bees and butterflies (See figure below). These are just two examples of how Bayer has joined with others to tackle some of the threats to pollinators and explore increased opportunities for pollination; our Science Program comprises more than 30 projects worldwide, tailored to meet local and regional needs.