Pollination services in the UK: how important are honeybees?
Breeze, T. D., Bailey, A. P., Balcombe, K. G. and Potts, S. G. (2011) Pollination services in the UK: how important are honeybees? Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 142 (3-4). pp. 137-143. ISSN 0167-8809
To link to this article DOI: 10.1016/j.agee.2011.03.020
Pollination services are known to provide substantial benefits to human populations and agriculture in particular. Although many species are known to provide pollination services, honeybees (Apis mellifera) are often assumed to provide the majority of these services to agriculture. Using data from a range of secondary sources, this study assesses the importance of insect pollinated crops at regional and national scales and investigates the capacity of honeybees to provide optimal pollination services to UK agriculture. The findings indicate that insect pollinated crops have become increasingly important in UK crop agriculture and, as of 2007, accounted for 20% of UK cropland and 19% of total farmgate crop value. Analysis of honeybee hive numbers indicates that current UK populations are only capable of supplying 34% of pollination service demands even under favourable assumptions, falling from 70% in 1984. In spite of this decline, insect pollinated crop yields have risen by an average of 54% since 1984, casting doubt on long held beliefs that honeybees provide the majority of pollination services. Future land use and crop production patterns may further increase the role of pollination services to UK agriculture, highlighting the importance of measures aimed at maintaining both wild and managed species.