Honey bees are well-known pollinators for a lot of the fruits, nuts and vegetables we love and enjoy, yet they are not always the most efficient pollinator for many crops, especially in tropical regions. Now, identifying new species among wild pollinators that could serve as managed pollinators is a growing – and important – field of research. This includes identifying which wild bee species could be managed in similar ways to honey bees. A promising group is stingless bees, which have the potential to pollinate many tropical crops.
There are some 20,000 different bee species around the world but few of them can be, and are, commercially managed for the pollination of cultivated plants, either on the open fields or in a protected environment, such as greenhouses.
A promising group for non-honey bee pollination services is stingless bees, which have the potential to pollinate many tropical crops, such as cashew. (Copyright: Prof. Breno Freitas)
This new Bee Care project, in partnership with the University of Ceara, aims to look at some of the solitary and social bee species native to Brazil, to see if any of these have the potential to be bred for pollination purposes for key market crops such as, melon, watermelon, tomato, cashew and acerola – a cherry-like fruit, rich in vitamin C.
Some potential bee species have already been identified, so the project will try to develop or adapt techniques for fast colony or population multiplication.
The next step would then be to enable growers to use the techniques, integrating these managed pollinators into the agricultural practices in Brazil, through work with beekeepers and plant growers.
Work will soon be underway and you can follow the progress of this project through future updates.