The wild bee Agapostemon virescens perches well camouflaged on an echinacea flower. The importance of this and other rare bee species for pollination has been underestimated.
A meadow with lush flowers and most fruits can only be created thanks to the work of many hard-working bees, bumblebees and wasps. Insects are attracted by the sugary nectar, settling on the flowers, at which point the pollen sticks to their bodies. When you visit the next flower, some pollen gets stuck: It has been pollinated.
To date, research on the role of bees as pollinators has mostly focused on individual plant species rather than on a meadow with an entire community of plants. Since two percent of all bee species are also responsible for 80 percent of plant pollination, less attention has been paid to other bee species in this context than ordinary honeybees or bumblebees. But that has now been changed by Dylan Simpson of the University of New Jersey and his colleagues: They analyzed the encounters of nearly 200 species of bees with more than 100 plant species, and thus determined their pollination performance.
The results showed that the entire meadow community depends on two to seven times more bee species than individual plant species. The greater the variety of plants that grow there, the greater the number of pollinating species of bees. Less common bees in particular played an important role: “Our work shows that rare visitors are also important to the meadow because they pollinate plants that no one else pollinates,” explains co-author Michael Roswell of the University of Maryland. “And that’s a good argument for why biodiversity is so important.”
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