Pursuing alternatives: Honeybees may be helped by other pollinators

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The honeybee, Apis mellifera, has been the dominant pollinator for decades but now is threatened by pesticides, pathogens, parasites and poor nutrition. Last year, beekeepers in the United States lost an estimated 40 percent of their managed honeybee colonies, according to the Bee Informed Partnership, a nonprofit that advises beekeepers.

Some years that number is even higher, according to Mark Winston, a professor of apiculture at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia and author of several books on bees. “Is there another agricultural enterprise that accepts an annual loss of 40 to 45 percent of its animals?” he asked.

One-third of our food …. must be pollinated in order to grow. Some scientists warn of risks to agricultural food supplies if there aren’t enough pollinators.

Related article:  Viewpoint: Research raises concerns about 'ecosystem-wide impact' of neonicotinoid pesticides

As honeybee prices continue to rise, farmers are turning to other types of bees — like the blue orchard bee, the bumblebee and alfalfa leafcutter — that have proven to be effective pollinators of some crops in certain settings.

[R]esearchers across the country have been studying how so-called integrated crop pollination — or combinations of varying bee species — can help growers ensure reliable pollination.

[J]ust four other [species] than the honeybee are already used or almost ready for use on a commercial scale in the United States, according to a review published last year in Basic and Applied Ecology ….

Read full, original article: Plan Bee: The Rise of Alternative Pollinators

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