Honey-bees are the best-known pollinators. But many other insects are also essential for pollination of crops and wild plants. Examples:• wild bees, such as bumble bees and solitary bees• flies• wasps• butterflies• beetles• thunderbugs• ants
The honey bee is very important as a pollinator for agriculture, because bee colonies with their tens of thousands of collectors can be specifically brought into the mass flowers of crops, such as orchards. The wild pollinator species are also extremely essential, because their great variety guarantees suitable pollinators for all flower forms. Worldwide, for example, there are more than 20.000 species of wild bees, in Germany more than 550 species.
Studies have shown that a large variety of pollinators has a positive effect on yield and quality of the harvest. Given the significance of pollination for yields and food security, it is important to protect diversity of pollinators from threats such as improperly used plant protection products and to provide them with habitats and food plants in agroecosystems. The Institute for Bee Protection of the Federal Research Center for Cultivated Plants Julius Kühn Institute conducts research on bee protection by, among other things, carrying out risk assessments of bee hazards from plant protection products and investigations of bee poisoning.
Providing habitats for pollinators
In order to provide sufficient food for the greatest possible variety of pollinators, species-rich flowering areas should be available in agricultural landscapes from spring to autumn, if possible with native flowering plants. Where areas and edges with blooming wild plants are missing or insufficient, flowering strips must be grown on the fields. Wild pollinators need nesting sites, such as dead wood in hedges and open ground sites in areas with soil regeneration. In agricultural landscapes an appropriate structural richness is therefore necessary. The F.R.A.N.Z project (For Resources, Agriculture & Nature Conservation with a Future) investigates how economic interests of agriculture can be combined with the conservation of pollinators.
Genetic resources of the honeybee
Besides honey production, honeybees play an important role as pollinators of crops in agriculture, such as plant, vegetable, fruit production and partially also in viticulture. As a farm animal it is consecutively bred further. Conservation of the genetic diversity of honeybees is dependent on the assumption that regionally developed subspecies and breeds of honeybees don’t get lost. For example, beekeepers in Germany are campaigning for the conservation of the European Dark Bee (Apis mellifera mellifera), a subspecies of honeybees that originally was widespread in Germany. Currently most frequently used by beekeepers in Germany is the Carniolan honey bee, also called Carnica, a breed introduced from Southeast Europe and the Buckfast bee, a bee bred in England.