Importance and Conservation of Non-Apis Bee Pollinators in Agro-Ecosystems
Author: Dr. U. Amala
Non-apis native pollinators includes sweat bees, leaf cutter bees, mason bees, minner bees, cellophane/polyester bees and digger bees. They play a vital role in pollinating several crops like apple, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, cherry, cranberry, cucumber, peach, plum, sunflower, cherry tomato, soybean, watermelon, pumpkin, squash, coriander, cocoa, mango, papaya, agave, fig, oil palm, clover and canola. Diversifying the pollinators that are active on a farm makes good economic sense because it spreads risk across many bee species. Another benefit of having more kinds of bees pollinating is that, for some crops, native bees are much more efficient at shaking the flower to release pollen. Many non-apis bees often visit flowers during wet humid periods when the honeybees remain in the hive. Native bees forage earlier or later in the day than honeybees. Taking some simple steps to enhance the farm environment for these beneficial insects will increase their abundance over time and can lead to more consistent crop pollination from year to year. Native non-apis bees need simple habitat management measures to flourish unlike honeybees .
METHODS TO ATTRACT NATIVE NON-APIS POLLINATORS
Growers can follow some simple practices to make their farms and surrounding landscapes more suitable for non-apis pollinators. Non-apis pollinators need undisturbed nesting sites and access to nectar and pollen when the crop is not in bloom. They also need water, and some need materials for nest building, such as mud or leaves. Many farms have some of these resources already, increasing them should improve native bee abundance over time.
Planting appropriate vegetation
The easiest way to attract native pollinators is to plant gardens or meadows that contain a diversity of native wildflowers, trees, and shrubs. A variety of wildflowers and native grasses will provide native pollinators with food (nectar, pollen, and/or larval host plants). Mowed lawn area should be minimized in favor of patches of native wildflowers, shrubs, and grasses. Lawn areas that do exist should be mowed less frequently to allow the vegetation to provide habitat for pollinators. Perennials should be chosen over annuals. Perennials are generally richer in nectar and, because they bloom year after year, provide a more dependable food source than annuals. Each species of flower should be grown in a clump, as this will attract more pollinators than individual plants.
Providing artificial nesting sites
The majority of native bees dig nests in the ground. Adults of ground-nesting bees fly in and out of these nests many times, collecting pollen to feed to their developing larvae in the nest. Providing non-tilled areas of open ground or well-drained mounds of soil near fields can provide nesting places for these bees. Native bees such as mason and leafcutter bees nest in hollow plant stems and beetle holes in trees. Undisturbed grassy areas around fields may provide suitable underground nesting sites. Holes drilled into wooden blocks or bundles of cut plant stems can provide the necessary nesting sites that cavity-nesting bees require. In recent years, some species of mason bees have been managed in nesting blocks.
Providing clean water source
Many groups of native pollinators need water to survive, whereas, others will simply be attracted to fresh water. Providing a source of pesticide-free water and mud will attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. A birdbath, fountain, dripping faucet, small pond, or mud puddle will attract bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects.
Judicious use of Plant Protection chemicals
Bees visit crop fields to feed primarily when the crop is in bloom. Special care must be taken to protect these bees during the crop’s bloom period. Avoiding insecticide applications immediately before, during and directly after bloom, and if sprays are required selection of only the most bee-safe products are the measures that supports non-apis bee pollinators. Selecting pesticides that are less toxic to bees should pay off over the long term by helping these native bees survive.
Adopting conservation approaches in the farm will improve the opportunities such that native non apis pollinators will increase to levels that will contribute to crop pollination. Enhancing the suitability of farm landscapes for native pollinators will also provide a diversified strategy for achieving good crop yields in pollination-dependent crops year after year.
About Author / Additional Info:
I am an Entomologist working on conservation and utilization of non-apis bees for increased crop production. Native bees play a vital role in pollination of major crops and their in-situ conservation is the need of the hour to restore their biodiversity and pollination service.