Due to the great importance and added productivity of insect pollination on agricultural development, Farmfolio’s Ganaderia Pietrasanta (GP) operation in Colombia recently incorporated several bee hives. Located throughout the farm, these new bee houses are expected to secure and boost the yields of our coconut plantations. Moreover, the bee hives will also produce in-house, artisanal honey.
The Importance of Insect Pollination in Agriculture
Pollination by flying insects is essential to the sustenance of global agriculture and ecosystems. Firstly, pollination is the process through which pollen is transferred from the anther to the stigma of a flower. In other words, the movement of pollen from the male to the female receptors of the plant. Not all flowers require an animal or the wind to help with the pollination process, as some plants can self-pollinate if their stigma is located inside of the plant. However, an estimated 80% of flowering plants depend on external factors (animals or wind) to pollinate. Similarly, bees represent 50% of all tropical plant pollinators.
Regarding worldwide agriculture, it is estimated that 35% of crops are dependent on pollinators. In other words, a third of all human food requires insects for its pollination process. Likewise, 70% of the main crops grown for global human consumption require pollination to increase crop yields and to produce seeds. Around the world, crop pollination by bees is estimated to be worth US$170 billion per year. Just in Europe, bee pollination has an estimated value of US$22 billion per year. Throughout the United States, honeybees alone generate around US$15 billion by providing us with the fruits, nuts, and vegetables that we consume on a daily basis. In addition, crops dependent on native insect pollination, like the bumblebee and the alfalfa leafcutter, account for more than US$9 billion each year.
In the world, there are 25,000 species of bees. Of these, only four are honeybees and 250 are bumblebees. According to the European Red List of Bees, there are about 2,000 species in Europe of which 9% are threatened with extinction, mostly due to habitat loss and the use of pesticides. Habitats are being destroyed because of non-sustainable agricultural practices, the increase in use of pesticides and fertilizers, and the introduction of massive crop fields, all of which pose a threat to these insects. For example, as a result of the loss of wildflower fields in the UK, since 1945, two bumblebee species have become extinct. In Hawaii, bees have also been affected by climate and ecosystem variations. Due to habitat loss, wildfires, and the introduction of non-native plants and insects, seven types of yellow-faced or masked bees were recently added to the United States list of endangered and threatened species. These bees are particularly significant because they are native to the area and, therefore, they are the main pollinators of the islands’ native crops. Bees worldwide are facing a variety of challenges to thrive in a world where agriculture is not always sustainable. As cultivators and consumers, individual citizens need to start taking the necessary precautions to prolong the life of these insects. Pollinators are a vital part of the ecosystem and play a key role in our economies.
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