Who are your pollinators?

Who are your pollinators?

Smart Farmer How To
CRUCIAL: A recent study showed honey bee visits constitute one third of all insect sightings, confirming its importance in horticulture and agriculture.

CRUCIAL: A recent study showed honey bee visits constitute one third of all insect sightings, confirming its importance in horticulture and agriculture.

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Many different creatures and physical forces are involved in the pollination of our plants.

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Who or what pollinates your plants?

Many different creatures and physical forces are involved.

Gravity and wind make significant contributions and animals play a small part - it has been shown recently that bush rats pollinate Banksia.

But insects are by far the most important players in this field and of these the European honey bee, Apis mellifera, contributes most, particularly in agriculture.

Certainly, Australian flora were adequately pollinated before 1822 when the honey bee was successfully introduced, but there were no agricultural industries with huge monocrops of cereals, fruits and nuts.

Many of these depend on the honey bee for pollination and productivity. It has been said that one in three bites of our food are so dependent.

But what about your garden flowers and crops?

Researchers at University of New England have been studying this using 'citizen science'; harnessing interested general public volunteers to contribute to a 'Wild Pollinator Count' study project.

On a calm, warm and sunny day during a designated observation week participants focus on a favourite flower or group of flowers, watching continuously for 10 minutes, identifying and recording every visiting insect which touches the pollen bearing parts of the flower, the male stamens.

Insects which fly by without so touching are not recorded.

Results coordinated by the researchers reveal that honey bee visits constitute one third of all insect sightings, confirming the importance of this little creature in horticulture as well as its known dominance in agriculture.

Other insect pollinators identified in this study are also of great interest and perhaps surprising.

Rounding to nearest figures:

Honey bees - 33% or one third of all visits; flies - 30% with Hover flies nearly half of these; beetles - 20%; native bees - 10%; butterflies and moths: 4%; and wasps: 2%.

These valuable studies not only confirm the supreme importance of the honey bee but of the significance of insects in general.

Though much maligned as pests and nuisances we think we could well do without, insects are important to ecology and our life styles.

Without them your roses may not smell as sweet.

So please everybody, go easy on insecticides!

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