While bees take all the credit, science says flies work just as hard

1 Dec 2015

The great bee die-off is considered one of the greatest ecological disasters of our time due to their importance to pollination, but researchers are now saying we might be giving bees too much credit.

As we have seen in recent months, the direct link between bees dying off in great numbers has now been scientifically attributed to the use of pesticides by farmers, with worthwhile calls for their use to be banned to conserve their populations.

But now, a team of international researchers, including Trinity College Dublin’s (TCD) Jane Stout who co-authored the paper, says that while bees are the best pollinators, many crops around the world don’t use bees at all and are reliant on other insects to do their pollination.

Non-bee insects such as flies, beetles, moths, butterflies, wasps and ants were researched in 39 different studies across five continents to directly measure their pollination services in comparison to bees.

And in the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencesit was shown in their synthesising of 39 field studies on 1,739 field plant crops in five continents that these non-bee species performed 25-50pc of the total number of flower visits.

In Ireland, Stout and the team found that the most important non-bee pollinators were hoverflies.

According to the team, the study was important in highlighting that while the bee die-off is very important to pollination, it is also important that other insects that are also important are not ignored by science, and could even play an increased role should the bee die-off continue.

“We know that non-bee insects are important pollinators of wild plants and this study shows that they are also important for crop production,” said Stout. “Therefore, we can’t just concentrate on bee conservation and ignore other pollinators.”

Pollinating bee image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic