Photo: Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals

Crops, pollination, food: Why we need bees

Photo: Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals

Photo: Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals

One-third of the world’s crops need pollination to set seeds and fruits, and a majority of them are pollinated by bees. Along with other pollinators, bees are currently endangered by human activity. There is a global decline in bee population, due to reasons like excessive use of insecticides, habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, bee pests and diseases, and climate change.

In order to raise awareness about their critical role in sustainable development, the United Nations has declared May 20 as World Bee Day.

There are nearly 25,000 species of bees: 70-80% of the world’s crops/plants are pollinated by wild bees while 15-20% are pollinated by honeybees. These pollinators also provide an important ecosystem service that is essential for sustaining the wild flora biodiversity. As an example in case of pigeonpea, Apis mellifera, A. dorsata, A indica (Pathak, 1970), Megachile spp. (Williams, 1977; Zeng-Hong et al. 2011), and Xylocopa spp. (Onim, 1981) are major sources of natural cross-pollination.

Effect of bee pollination on crop

  • It increases seed yield and fruit yield in many crops.
  • It improves quality of fruits and seeds.
  • Bee pollination increases oil content of seeds in sunflower.
  • Bee pollination is a must in some self-incompatible crops for seed setting.

Crops benefited by bee pollination  

  • Fruits and nuts:Almond, apple, apricot, peach, strawberry, citrus and litchi
  • Vegetable and Vegetable seed crops: Cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, coriander, cucumber, melon, onion, pumpkin, radish and turnip
  • Oil seed crops:Sunflower, niger, rapeseed, mustard, safflower, gingelly.
  • Forage seed crops:Lucerne, clover
  • Cultivated field crops: Pigeonpea, lentils, clovers, Lucerne, mustard, rape, linseed, sesame, gingelly, buck-wheat, Cambodia, safflower, millet and sunflower
  • Timber trees: Neem, Cassia fistula, Acacia, Albizzia , Kachnar (Bauhinia purpurea), eucalyptus, sandalwood, raintree, wild cherry
  • Natural and ornamental flowers: Cosmos, shoe flower, golden rod, cup & saucer, Tecoma stans, zinnia,
  • coral creeper (Antigonon leptopus), rose,Rangoon creeper, asterwild rose (kuja), hydrangea, violet, portulaca, poinsettia, honeysuckle, cornflower, coreopsis, dandelion etc.

What we must do:

  • Switch to eco-friendly pesticides
  • Minimize intensive agriculture
  • Maintain natural habitat within an agricultural mosaic

We hope that a dedicated World Bee Day helps in conservation of these industrious insects that greatly contribute to solving problems related to food and nutrition.

About the author:

Jaba Jagadish
Scientist, Integrated Crop Management

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