Study: Native NC Bees Are More Efficient Pollinators

Dec 27, 2013

A new NC State study found that honey bees are more plentiful than smaller native bees, but less efficient pollinators.
Credit David Tarpy

Researchers at North Carolina State University have come up with a system to evaluate the efficiency and importance of different species of pollinators. 

The study's authors say insects are the primary pollinators of crops.  The researchers developed their system by looking at the behavior of bees in North Carolina blueberry fields. 

Hannah Burrack is an associate professor of entomology at NC State and a co-author of the study. 

“We controlled how many bees visited a flower,” Burrack says.  “We either excluded bees from visiting or let bees of different types of species visit a flower once and then fifty days after that we came back, collected the fruit that resulted from that visitation and determined how many seeds developed as a result of one bee visit.”

Burrack says while honey bees were the most plentiful, smaller native bees were more efficient pollinators and were also more active in bad weather. 

She says the next step is to evaluate the impact of human activity on different bee populations.