How integral are bees to agriculture


Ensuring high levels of pollination can produce larger yields and higher quality fruit. Supplemental crop pollination is most commonly provided with managed colonies of the European honey bee. Conve-nience and predictable efficacy has made the honey bee an integral part of modern agriculture. About 150,000 honey bee colonies are rented to U.S. growers for pollination annually, with almonds, apples, and cherries comprising about half of all colony rentals (Burgett and others 2010). The European honey bee is very well suited to commercial pol-lination. Colony strength can be visually inspected and extremely high numbers of pollinators can be placed anywhere within theagroecosys-tem at a time that suits the grower. These traits allow growers certainty there will be sufficient pollination service when and where it is needed.However, relying on pollination by managed honey bees has draw-backs. Pollination efficiency varies by crop, and some pants (such as alfalfa) are not effectively pollinated by honey bees. Additionally, Colony Collapse Disorder and honey bee colony death due to mites and disease continue to be problems. Although there has been much research into honey bee health recently (Figure 1), rentals of honey bee colonies are becoming increasingly expensive (about $90/colony in the western U.S.) and may be unavailable in certain areas (Burgett and others 2010).

Bees play a big role in agriculture. They pollinate crops, increase yields, and give rise to a lucrative honey industry. Bees are so important, in fact, that millions are spent renting hives to pollinate farmers’ crops. Over one third of the food we eat relies on pollination by bees, either directly or indirectly.Sep 26, 2017


What is the importance of bees in agriculture?

The importance of bees in agriculture is well-known, but the extent of the significance isn’t something that everyone understands completely. For those who rely on bees for the pollination of agricultural crops, like blueberry farms and others, bees are as necessary to the operation’s success as sunlight and water.

How much do bees contribute to the economy?

In fact, bee pollination accounts for about $15 billion in added crop value. Honey bees are like flying dollar bills buzzing over U.S. crops. Unfortunately, a widespread bacterial disease called American foulbrood is destroying entire colonies of honey bees.

How did bees and crops evolve together?

Both the crops and the bees evolved together in other areas of the globe, and were brought here by European settlers. Information suggests that the first honey bee colonies arrived in the Colony of Virginia from England early in 1622. Today, the commercial production of more than 90 crops relies on bee pollination.

What crops are pollinated by bees?

Examples of different types of important agricultural crops that are pollinated by bees. European honey bees ( Apis mellifera) get the most credit for crop pollination. Honey bee colonies with thousands of foraging workers are easy to transport between farms and orchards. But are honey bees really doing all the hard work?


How much do bees contribute to agriculture?

In the United States, more than one-third of all crop production – 90 crops ranging from nuts to berries to flowering vegetables – requires insect pollination. Managed honey bee colonies are our primary pollinators, adding at least $15 billion a year by increasing yields and helping to ensure superior-quality harvests.

Do bees help with crops?

The plight of pollinators Honey bees alone pollinate 80 percent of all flowering plants, including more than 130 types of fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, bee populations have dropped alarmingly across North America, as have the populations of many other pollinator species.

Do farmers depend on bees?

Through a variety of USDA conservation programs, farmers and ranchers can manage for top-notch pollinator habitat while also improving their operations. Three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants depend on pollinators, such as bees, bats, beetles, and butterflies, to reproduce.

How do honeybees impact agriculture?

Not all crops require (or benefit from) honeybees for pollination, but the production of such crops as a percentage of total food production is increasing throughout the world. Pollination by honeybees increases the size, quality and/or stability of harvests for an estimated 70 per cent of the world’s main crops.

Why are bees important to plants?

Why are bees good pollinators? Bees make excellent pollinators because most of their life is spent collecting pollen, a source of protein that they feed to their developing offspring. When a bee lands on a flower, the hairs all over the bees’ body attract pollen grains through electrostatic forces.

How do farmers pollinate without bees?

Some fruits are self-pollinating, and can fertilize themselves without any bees involved. The Navel Oranges seen in the photo at the top are a good example of a fruit that can self-pollinate. Most fruit trees — pears and apples in particular — are self-sterile for their own pollen.

How are honey bees important to farmers?

It’s their work as crop pollinators. This agricultural benefit of honey bees is estimated to be between 10 and 20 times the total value of honey and beeswax. In fact, bee pollination accounts for about $15 billion in added crop value. Honey bees are like flying dollar bills buzzing over U.S. crops.

How do pollinators help agriculture?

Pollinators are vitally important to agriculture, as well as our food system and ecosystems. They help thousands of flowering plants reproduce, from flowers to fruits and even some crops. Pollinator habitat can also provide benefits on the farm, such as preventing soil erosion and improving biodiversity.

What provinces are responsible for the extinction of bees?

In the Sichuan Province, a major fruit-producing part of the world, heavy pesticide use has led to the localized extinction of all native and even managed bee species. In order to pollinate apples, farmers are required to do the pollinating. These “human pollinators” climb trees with a small container of apple pollen.

How many pounds of seed do bees pollinate?

This bee is so good at its job that it is the only solitary ground-nesting species used on an industrial scale. These bees pollinate about 2,500 pounds of seed per acre, compared to only 185 pounds per acre without the help of commercial pollinators. Nomia sp., an alkali bee. Apple Bees.

What is the pollinator of rabbiteye blueberries?

Habropoda laboriosa is such an effective pollinator of rabbiteye blueberry ( Vaccinium ashei) in the southeastern United States that each female is estimated to be worth between $18 and $20 to a commercial blueberry grower. The southeastern blueberry bee, Habropoda laboriosa.

What is a killer bee?

A “killer bee.”. The term “killer bee” describes a highly aggressive, non-native bee brought to the Americas for a Brazilian experiment to breed better honey bees. To do this, scientists interbred European honey bees with African honey bees.

How many species of bees are there in the world?

The genus Apis –the honey bees–includes seven described species, including the giant honey bee, the dwarf honey bees, the eastern honey bees, and the European honey bee. The European honey bee ( Apis mellifera) is most familiar to residents of the United States. Apis mellifera is not native to North America.

What do humans depend on for pollination?

Crop Pollinating Bees. Humans depend on pollination for our most nutritious and flavorful foods. Our diets are based mostly on self-pollinated or wind-pollinated grains. But crops made possible by pollinators provide diversity in our diets, including certain fruits, vegetables, nuts, spices, and coffee.

What is the meaning of eusocial honey bees?

All honey bee species are eusocial, which means the colony consists of a single reproductive female (the queen) and thousands to tens of thousands of workers. Honey bee colonies form nests both in cavities and on exposed surfaces, such as cliffs and on exposed surfaces, such as cliffs and the branches of large trees.

Why are bees important to agriculture?

For those who rely on bees for the pollination of agricultural crops, like blueberry farms and others, bees are as necessary to the operation’s success as sunlight and water.

Why do beekeepers use bumblebees?

Because honeybees won’t visit plants — beekeepers call it “working”— when it’s overcast or raining, operations must use both honeybees and bumblebees to pollinate the plants. The operation also has to alternate rows with different kinds of blueberry plants to achieve cross pollination.

Why is pollination important for blueberry plants?

Bee pollination drives the operation, along with the weather and temperatures, because blueberry pollen cannot be dispersed in the wind or other external forces to pollinate the plants, but is necessary to create each and every berry.

What are the predators of blueberry farms?

The blueberry operation also has to contend with predators, with main predators being birds like Cedar Waxwings. The farm uses air cannons to scare the birds away from the precious berries, but local hawk populations can also keep pest birds away.

How many acres are Kirkland Farms?

With all these efforts, and an optimized farm layout, Kirkland Farms is able to produce a volume of berries equal to that of a 25-acre, traditionally laid-out farm on only 15 acres! There was so much to learn, the AgAmerica team will likely return during U-Pick season in March and April.

How much do honey bees contribute to agriculture?

All of this pollination adds up to a big price tag: Honey bees contribute $24 billion annually to U.S. agriculture, and 161.8 million pounds of raw honey was produced in 2016. But honey bees, and the industry, biodiversity, and nutritional variety they provide, is at risk.

What are the effects of bees?

What’s Affecting Bee Populations? 1 Neonicotinoids are a group of pesticides common in the agriculture industry. Neonicotinoids are used in the production of corn, one of our country’s most important crops, as well as wheat, soy, and cotton. They also alter bee behavior, limiting their ability to harvest nectar, and weaken bees’ immune systems, leaving them more vulnerable to pests and parasites. 2 The Varroa mite, is a parasite that attacks honey bees, weakening individual bees and infesting hives. Within one to two years, varroa mites can wipe out a colony of honey bees. 3 While Varroa mites get the most attention, they’re hardly the only pest putting bee populations in danger. Tracheal mites reduce honey production and eventually cause bees to die off. The small hive beetle is native to sub-Saharan Africa and has caused major colony loss throughout the bee population. 4 Habitat loss is another big threat to bee populations. As the amount of preserved natural environment decreases, so do bee habitats and food sources. When bees don’t have enough to forage, they can’t repopulate their hives.

What parasites attack honey bees?

The Varroa mite, is a parasite that attacks honey bees, weakening individual bees and infesting hives.

Why are bees in danger?

Bees all over the world (even in Pennsylvania) are in danger, and their declining health comes with major implications for food security. Bees play a big role in agriculture. They pollinate crops, increase yields, and give rise to a lucrative honey industry.

Why do bees lose their hives?

The primary suspects behind colony collapse disorder are pesticides, especially those used in industrial agriculture, and destructive pests that invade hives and spread disease.

What happens when you stop mowing and sow native flowering plants?

When you stop mowing and sow native flowering plant species instead, you can attract a variety of pollinators to increase the beauty of your yard and the health of the environment. Instead of using fertilizers and pesticides, let nature take its course. Learn how to live with bees.

When did honey bees go extinct?

Honey bees have been in crisis since 2006, when beekeepers first reported the sudden disappearances of entire colonies. Beehives were found abandoned with no sign of life except a solitary queen, and scientists were mystified.

How much does honey bee pollination add to the value of crops?

In fact, bee pollination accounts for about $15 billion in added crop value. Honey bees are like flying dollar bills buzzing over U.S. crops.

What are the products of honey bees?

agriculture. These social and hardworking insects produce six hive products – honey, pollen, royal jelly, beeswax, propolis, and venom – all collected and used by people for various nutritional and medicinal purposes.

How do bees spread AFB?

The disease spreads quickly to other colonies in the apiary by: 1 Robber bees. Weak, AFB-infected colonies make good targets for robber bees from nearby strong colonies. The robbers steal the contaminated honey or bee bread from the infected colony and bring the P. larvae spores back to their home colony. 2 Beekeepers. While working with their hives, beekeepers may expose other colonies in the apiary to contaminated honey or equipment. 3 Drifting worker bees or swarms. These bees are in the process of leaving their parent colony to start their own colony in a new location. If the parent colony is infected, the swarm will bring the spores with them to the new location.

What is the disease that kills honey bees?

Unfortunately, a widespread bacterial disease called American foulbrood is destroying entire colonies of honey bees. But fortunately for the honey bees and the many crops that depend on them for pollination, FDA has approved three antibiotics to control this devastating honey bee disease.

What is the second most important hive product?

After honey, beeswax is the second most important hive product from an economic standpoint. The beeswax trade dates to ancient Greece and Rome, and in Medieval Europe, the substance was a unit of trade for taxes and other purposes. The market remains strong today.

What is beeswax used for?

Beeswax is popular for making candles and as an ingredient in artists’ materials and in leather and wood polishes. The pharmaceutical industry uses the substance as a binding agent, time-release mechanism, and drug carrier. Beeswax is also one of the most commonly used waxes in cosmetics.

How much does honey cost?

Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistics Service, honey bees made 157 million pounds of honey in 2019. With the cost of honey at $1.97 per pound, that’s a value of a little over $339 million.


As the world’s most important group of pollinators, bees are a crucial part of agricultural production and natural ecosystem function.


Rhoades, Paul. 2013. The importance of bees in natural and agricultural ecosystems. In: Haase, D. L.; Pinto, J. R.; Wilkinson, K. M., technical coordinators. National Proceedings: Forest and Conservation Nursery Associations – 2012. Proceedings RMRS-P-69. Fort Collins, CO: U.S.


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