bee in air

Pollinator Conservation

The importance of pollinators

Pollinators, both wild and managed, are critical to food production worldwide. The annual value of insect pollination in New York state alone is estimated at $500 million [1]. A well-known global calculation is that one third of our food is derived from pollination [2], and pollination-dependent crops such as fruits and vegetables are on the rise in North America. Some foods, such as tomatoes and blueberries, depend entirely on insects for pollination. Other crops, such as sunflowers, green beans, raspberries, and blackberries, do not require pollination to reproduce, but benefit from increased quality and yields when pollinators are involved [3].

In addition to crop pollination, insects contribute to the reproduction of over 90% of modern angiosperms [4], leading to the vast biodiversity of plants we see around us that create and maintain healthy, stable ecosystems. The co-evolution of pollinators and flowers dates back to the Cretaceous era between 65-145 million years ago [5]. Flowers attract and reward bees with nectar and pollen as a food source, while bees provide pollination services that help plants reproduce. Generalist pollinators, such as honey bees, can visit a wide range of plant species. Specialist pollinators, representing around 20% of bee species, depend on one or a few closely related species to survive. For these species, the disappearance of one group leads to the other following soon after.


References

  1. New York State Government. Agency Heads to Tackle Recovery of Pollinator Populations Vital to State’s Crop Industry and Food Production. 2015[accessed on August 20, 2015]; Available from: https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-cuomo-announces-taskforce-develop-pollinator-protection-plan-protect-new-yorks.
  2. Klein, A.M., et al., Importance of pollinators in changing landscapes for world crops. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, 2007. 274: p. 303-313.
  3. Delaplane, K.S. and D.F. Mayer, Crop Pollination by Bees. 2000, New York, USA: CABI Publishing.
  4. Kearns, C.A., D.W. Inouye, and N.M. Waser, Endangered mutualisms: the conservation of plant-pollinator interactions. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 1998. 29: p. 83-112.
  5. Grimaldi, D., The co-radiations of pollinating insects and angiosperms in the Cretaceous. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden, 1999. 86(2): p. 373-406.
  6. vanEngelsdorp, D., et al., Idiopathic brood disease syndrome and queen events as precursors of colony mortality in migratory beekeeping operations in the eastern United States. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 2013. 108: p. 225-233.
  7. Steinhauer, N., et al. Colony loss 2014-2015: Preliminary results. Bee Informed Partnership 2015   [accessed on November 23, 2015]; Available from: https://beeinformed.org/results/colony-loss-2014-2015-preliminary-results/.