Honeybees are more effective at pollinating almonds when other species of bees are present, says an international research team in groundbreaking research just published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
The research, which took place in California's almond orchards in Yolo, Colusa and Stanislaus counties, could prove invaluable in increasing the pollination effectiveness of honeybees, as demand for their pollination service grows.
When blue orchard bees and wild bees are foraging in almonds with honeybees, the behavior of honeybees changes, resulting in more effective crop pollination, said lead author Claire Brittain, a former postdoctoral fellow from Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Germany, and now associated with the Neal Williams lab at the University of California, Davis.
"These findings highlight the importance of conserving pollinators and the natural habitats they rely on," Brittain said. "Not only can they play an important direct role in crop pollination, but we also show that they can improve the pollination service of honeybees in almonds."
Alexandra-Maria Klein, Claire Kremen and pollination ecologist Neal Williams, assistant professor of entomology at UC Davis, co-authored the research, which encompasses 2008-2010 data. "In orchards with non-Apis (non-honeybees), the foraging behavior of honeybees changed and the pollination effectiveness of a single honeybee visit was greater than in orchards where non-Apis bees were absent," the researchers wrote in their abstract. Brittain said that the field experiments "show that a diversity of pollinators can improve pollination service, through species interactions that alter the behavior and effectiveness of a dominant pollinator species."