The fact that without bees, plant life will eventually die is a widespread knowledge across the globe. But a recent study conducted at the University of New England has shown that bees are not the only pollinators farms require to survive, accounting for only about 55% of the total pollinator numbers.
This study included 17 crops which were entirely dependent on pollinators in order to thrive in their environment, ranging from small crops to large and diverse systems. By analyzing the number of insect visitors and the amount of pollen they carried in relation to the plants they visited, they found that bees are not entirely the only insects which help the crops live.
Even though other insects such as beetles, flies and moths are also responsible for crop pollination, they are not specifically prepared to do so like the bee. But to their large numbers and frequent visitations, the quality over quantity balance is achieved, bringing the numbers of both bee and non-bee pollinators to half and half regarding the pollination of various crops.
But in some specific cases, like mango crops and coffee plantations, the non-bee insects are the ones to which the plants are entirely dependent on. By discovering this, researchers have come to the conclusion that pesticides which were modified in order to target all insects except bees may be used to the detriment of some specific crops.
The reason why this research has a large value in the scientific community, as well as agricultural markets, is the fact that honeybees are extremely vulnerable to diseases like the Varroa mites or in some cases the colony collapse disorder which certain bee hives might be susceptible to.
If the entire bee population declines or even completely disappears even with our current help of maintaining their numbers, non-bee insects will have to be the ones who take on the mantle of pollinating crops. Add to this their large numbers and their ability to thrive in almost all agricultural environments, flies might be the new insect which will be extremely important in crop pollination in the near future.
The next step is ensuring that at least two types of insect are protected in order to be used to pollinate crops, with one of them acting like a safety net in case the other one falters. But in order to do this, researchers have to study which specific insect is required for every type of crop in order for it to thrive. In the future, we may be able to see a crop guarded by flies, another one by beetles and another one by moths.
Because bees are not the only pollinators farms require to survive, farmers need to take more care when opting to use pesticides in order to keep insects which they consider to be harmful or just pests. By disrupting the delicate balance, they might be facing the complete destruction of their crops if not careful.