Wild Pollinators Enhance Fruit Set of Crops Regardless of Honey Bee Abundance

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Science  28 Feb 2013:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1230200

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Diversity and abundance of wild-insect pollinators have declined in many agricultural landscapes. Whether such declines reduce crop yields, or are mitigated by managed pollinators such as honey bees, is unclear. Here, we show universally positive associations of fruit set with wild-insect visits to flowers in 41 crop systems worldwide, and thus clearly demonstrate their agricultural value. In contrast, fruit set increased significantly with visitation by honey bees in only 14% of the systems surveyed. Overall, wild insects pollinated crops more effectively, because increase in their visitation enhanced fruit set by twice as much as an equivalent increase in honey bee visitation. Further, visitation by wild insects and honey bees promoted fruit set independently, so high abundance of managed honey bees supplemented, rather than substituted for, pollination by wild insects. Our results suggest that new practices for integrated management of both honey bees and diverse wild-insect assemblages will enhance global crop yields.

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