Turns out that bumblebees can do a lot for us in addressing the pollination crisis, where threats to honeybee populations are making it harder and harder to pollinate certain crops. Like fruit? Well, many fruit trees won’t bear fruit unless their flowers are pollinated. You’re going to need bees!
When I was a kid, I thought of there being three types of bees – honeybees: useful, dangerous if annoyed, but generally positive; wasps: unproductive, aggressive, basically evil; and bumblebees: useless, derpy, and basically harmless.
Strangely enough, child me was wrong – bumblebees are awesome. They’re far more effective pollinators because all that fuzz gets covered in pollen of all sorts which they then spread it around like crazy. One estimate (in the article) has them rated at 50 times more effective. They’re also much more resilient and there are a good number of species adapted for different parts of the world.
Unfortunately, because bumblebees don’t hoard honey for the winter, they were never domesticated, so now when we need better pollinators, we don’t know how to work with them. The article covers a bit about the biology and conservation of bees, then gets into research efforts in NZ to work out how to build nests to attract wild bumblebees to areas with plants that need fertilization.
Original Article: In Search of a Better Bee
Image Source: NZ Geographic