Back to top

Pollination is a valuable ecosystem service

Pollination is a valuable service provided by both managed bees (primarily honey bees, Apis mellifera) and wild, native bees. Bee pollination is essential for the production of fruits, nuts, vegetables, spices, stimulants (such as coffee), and edible oils (such as sunflower and canola). Estimates of the economic contribution of pollination vary widely, but two recent studies give us a sense of the magnitude of the contribution pollinators make to the global and national economy. Gallai et al. (2009) estimated that the contribution of pollination to the global economy was approximately $170 billion annually, and Calderone (2012), based on data for the US alone, estimated that pollination contributes over $15 billion/year to the US economy. In New York, important pollinator-dependent crops include apple ($250 million/year), squash and pumpkin ($74 million/year), tomatoes ($47 million/year), strawberries ($7 million/year), cherries ($3 million/year), and pears ($2.5 million/year) (economic data from New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets; Many of New York’s most high value fruits are entirely dependent on pollinators for successful production.

Why study wild pollinators in New York State?

  • New York State is home to a surprisingly diverse fauna of wild bees that contribute to apple pollination in NY.
    We have documented over 110 wild bee species visiting apple blossoms in surveys of NY apple orchards from Lake Ontario to the Hudson Valley (Russo et al. 2015). We have shown that wild bees are numerically abundant across orchard varying in size and management (Russo et al. 2015), that wild bees are highly effective pollinators on a per-visit basis (Park et al. 2015), and that wild bee diversity and abundance are correlated with apple fruit and seed set (Blitzer et al., in prep.). Apples are not the only crop that benefits from wild pollinators. Strawberries, pears, cherries, tomatoes and cucurbit crops are benefiting from a diverse wild pollinator fauna as well.
  • Documenting the diversity of wild bees in New York is an important part of promoting the health and stability of pollinator populations. To that end, we have been developing a complete list of New York’s wild bees. Our goal is to accurately document what species occur in New York, which bee species are native and which non-native, which are declining or rare, and as much information about the natural history, nesting biology, floral preferences, social behaviors as possible. 


  • Ascher, J.S., S. Kornbluth, and R.G. Goelet (2014). Bees (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Anthophila) of Gardiners Island, Suffolk County, New York. Northeastern Naturalist 21(1): 47-71.
  • Blitzer, E.J., J. Gibbs, M.G. Park, B.N. Danforth (2015). Pollination services for apple depend on functionally diverse wild bee communities. Agriculture, Ecosystems and the Environment [in press]
  • Calderone, N.W. (2012). Insect pollinated crops, insect pollinators and US agriculture: trend analysis of aggregate data for the period 1992–2009. PLoS One 7, e37235.
  • Feteridge, E.D., J.S. Ascher, G.A. Langellotto (2008). The bee fauna of residential gardens in a suburb of New York City (Hymenoptera: Apoidea). Annals the Entomological Society of America 101(6): 1067-1077
  • Gallai, N., J.-M. Salles, J. Settele, and B.E. Vaissière (2009). Economic valuation of the vulnerability of world agriculture confronted with pollinator decline. Ecological Economics 68: 810-821.
  • Gardner, K.E. and J.S. Ascher (2006). Notes on the native bee pollinators in New York apple orchards. Journal of the New York Entomological Society 114(1): 86-91.
  • Giles, V., and J.S. Ascher (2006). A survey of the bees of the Black Rock Forest Preserve, New York. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 15: 208-231.
  • Matteson, K.C., J.S. Ascher, and G.A. Langellotto (2008). Bee richness and abundance in New York city urban gardens. Annals of the Entomological Society of America 101: 140-150.
  • Park, M.G., R.A. Raguso, J.E. Losey, B.N. Danforth (2015). Per-visit pollinator performance and regional importance of wild Bombus and Andrena (Melandrena) compared to the managed honey bee in New York apple orchards. Apidologie [published online 25 August 2015, 10.1007/s13592-015-0383-9]
  • Russo, L., M.G. Park, J. Gibbs, B.N. Danforth (2015). The challenge of accurately documenting bee species richness in agroecosystems: bee diversity in eastern apple orchards. Ecology and Evolution 5(17): 3531-3540.
  • Schuh, R.T. (2012). Integrating specimen databases and revisionary systematics. Zookeys 209: 255-267.
  • Schuh, R.T., S. Hewson-Smith, and J.S. Ascher (2010). Specimen databases: a case study in entomology using web-based software. American Entomologist 56(4): 206-216.