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Video transcript: Europe is short of 13 million honeybee colonies for crop pollination

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January 2014

Dr Michael Garratt, University of Reading
Insect pollinators are really important for food security their contribution to the production of lots of different crops like oil seed rape, strawberries, field beans is crucial and actually in the UK insect pollination services has been valued at in excess of £430 million pounds per year.

Video shows a bee pollinationg a flower

In our first study we were trying to measure the contribution of insect pollinators to apple production in the UK.  We know that insects are important for production of apples they enable pollination of apples flowers but what we don't know is the value of this insect pollution to the UK apple production.

Video shows a large green house of apple plants

The results of the study showed that we are also able to value insect pollination to the production of Gala and Cox apples and actually we showed that insect pollination is worth over £36 million to these two varieties alone.  We also showed that currently the pollination demands of some of our apple varieties Gala, for example, are not currently being met by pollination services in our orchards so these varieties in particular would benefit from pollinator management to improve apple production and apple quality.  

Video shows harvesting of the apples

Another study we have been doing is looking at trying to identify which pollinators are really important for the pollination of oil seed rape and field beans which are two really important UK crops.

Video shows big fields of crops

Our research has shown your management needs to be targeted to those pollinators that are going to be effective pollinators of these crops for example to improve pollination of beans you might want to manage bumble bee abundance and diversity in the field.

Video shows a bumblebbe about to pllinate a flower, then a general view of a field

For oil seed they are pollinated by a diverse community of pollinators.

Dr Thomas Breeze, University of Reading
The third project we have been conducting at Reading has been looking at the contribution of honey bees or the potential contribution of honey bees to providing pollination services to crops.

Video shows two close-ups of bees at various points

We have explored this over 41 countries including the UK and all of the EU and found that in 22 of them there were insufficient honey bee stocks to actually pollinate all these crops.

Video shows a crop of rape

If honey bees were to be the only pollinator of crops in the UK we would need another 1 million colonies in the UK alone and the UK is second only to Moldova in its short fall we only have around a quarter of the honey bees in this country that we would need to provide pollution services to all our crops and most of this has been exacerbated by the expansion of oil seed rape particularly in the last 5 years with the introduction of EU biofuel policies which are greatly increased demand for the crop both in the UK and across Europe. 

Video shows a scientist studying a specimen bee

So the take home of all of this is that honey bees alone are not sufficient to provide pollination services in the UK and in several other countries across Europe and we do need this diversity of pollinators to provide services not only service delivery but service security as well in to the long term.

ENDS

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