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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Bee Pollination in Agricultural Eco-Systems

Authors
item JAMES, ROSALIND
item PITTS SINGER, THERESA

Submitted to: Complete Book
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: October 1, 2007
Publication Date: August 1, 2008
Citation: James, R.R., Pitts Singer, T. 2008. Bee Pollination in Agricultural Eco-Systems. Complete Book. Oxford University Press.

Interpretive Summary: For many agricultural crops, bees play a vital role as pollinators, and this book discusses the interplay between bees, agriculture and the environment. Although honey bees are well recognized as pollinators, managed bumble bees and solitary bees are also critical for the successful pollination of certain crops, while wild bees provide a free service. As bees liberally pass pollen from one plant to the next, they also impact the broader ecosystem, and not always to the benefit of humankind. Bees can enhance the unintentional spread of genes from genetically engineered plants, and may increase the spread of invasive weeds. Conversely, genetically engineered plants can impact pollinators, and invasive weeds can supply new sources of food for insects. Bees’ flower-visiting activities also can be exploited to help spread biological control agents that control crop pests, and they are important for native plant reproduction. Managing bees for pollination is complex and must take into consideration bee natural history, physiology, pathology, and behavior. Furthermore, transporting bees from native ranges to new areas for pollination services can be controversial, and needs to be done only after assuring that it will not disrupt the ecosystem. Even though bees are small, unobtrusive creatures, they play large roles in the ecosystem. The connection between bees and humankind is symbolic of a broader interconnection between humans and the natural world.

Technical Abstract: For many agricultural crops, bees play a vital role as pollinators, and this book discusses the interplay between bees, agriculture and the environment. Although honey bees are well recognized as pollinators, managed bumble bees and solitary bees are also critical for the successful pollination of certain crops, while wild bees provide a free service. As bees liberally pass pollen from one plant to the next, they also impact the broader ecosystem, and not always to the benefit of humankind. Bees can enhance the unintentional spread of genes from genetically engineered plants, and may increase the spread of invasive weeds. Conversely, genetically engineered plants can impact pollinators, and invasive weeds can supply new sources of food for insects. Bees’ flower-visiting activities also can be exploited to help spread biological control agents that control crop pests, and they are important for native plant reproduction. Managing bees for pollination is complex and must take into consideration bee natural history, physiology, pathology, and behavior. Furthermore, transporting bees from native ranges to new areas for pollination services can be controversial, and needs to be done only after assuring that it will not disrupt the ecosystem. Even though bees are small, unobtrusive creatures, they play large roles in the ecosystem. The connection between bees and humankind is symbolic of a broader interconnection between humans and the natural world.

Last Modified: 9/29/2014
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