Insects as Pollinators

As was noted in Chapter 23, Section 3.2, an intimate, mutualistic relationship has evolved between many species of insects and plants, in which plants produce nectar and pollen for use by insects, while the latter provide a transport system to ensure effective cross-pollination. Though some crop plants are wind-pollinated, for example, cereals, a large number, including fruits, vegetables, and field crops such as clovers, rape, and sunflower, require the service of insects. In addition, ornamental flowers are almost all insect-pollinated.

The best known, though by no means the only, important insect pollinator is the honey bee, and it is standard practice in many parts of the world for fruit, seed, and vegetable producers either to set up their own beehives in their orchards and fields or to contract this job out to beekeepers. For example, in California about 1.4 million hives are rented annually to augment natural pollination of almonds (about 50% of the hives), alfalfa, melons, and other fruits and vegetables (Pimentel et al., 1992). Under such conditions, the value ofbees as pollinators may be up to 140 times their value as honey producers. Using this factor, it is estimated that the increased value of crops attributable to honey bee pollination in the United States is about US$15 billion each year [see Robinson et al. (1989) for a detailed analysis]. This estimate does not take into account the value of other, natural pollinators of crops, nor obviously has a value been placed on the importance of all pollinators of non-crop plants, which are vital to species diversity and as food for wildlife.

Beekeeping for Beginners

Beekeeping for Beginners

The information in this book is useful to anyone wanting to start beekeeping as a hobby or a business. It was written for beginners. Those who have never looked into beekeeping, may not understand the meaning of the terminology used by people in the industry. We have tried to overcome the problem by giving explanations. We want you to be able to use this book as a guide in to beekeeping.

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