Alternative needed for pollinating bees
We often hear about potential devastation of our food crops if the introduced European honey bee suddenly keeled over and was no longer buzzing in the landscape.
Many studies have indicated, after all, that this industrious insect is responsible for the pollination of a huge percentage of our fresh fruit and vegetable crops, equating to a multi billion-dollar asset.
In fact, some research suggests bees overall pollinate about a sixth of the flowering plants world-wide.
There have been concerns that disease and parasites threatening the survival of honey bees around the globe might one day seriously jump borders into Australia and put our immigrant insects at risk.
There has been all sorts of analyses into what makes honey bees tick with results often warning us of the perils that confront us if we lose them.
For example, one of the latest studies from the University of Western Australia revealed that degraded landscapes affected the honey bee’s metabolic rate, putting more strain on its ability to function adequately.
It seems obvious that we should make all efforts to secure the longevity of honey bees in our environment – but is it?
At the risk of upsetting our apiarists who provide us with a wonderful selection of honey products, if providing security for crop pollination is the critical issue, should we in Australia be exploring other options apart from an exotic species that might become vulnerable?
Yes, we’re growing exotic plants that provide us with produce and bees are exotic and an obvious match, but we have a staggering abundance of Australian flowers in our landscape that have been here for thousands of years.
Honey bees have only been in Australia for about 200 years so what has been or was previously pollinating the flowers?
The answer is various types of other insects, birds and mammals, and in some cases, environmental conditions such as wind, fire and so on.
Should we, perhaps as well as exploring ways of securing the future of honey bees in our environment, be researching other hardy crop pollinators from our own backyards such as native hover flies or whatever?
As a layman, I’m assuming this type of research is happening, not only for national crop security but also in response to honey bees having the capability of displacing native species with their voracious appetite for pollen.
Alternative native pollinators might prove to be poor substitutes for honey bees but we need to at least find out.
To use a few old-fashioned but often appropriate expressions, we might be barking up the wrong tree, but there are lots of ways to skin a cat and often we can’t see the forest for the trees.