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Hymenopterans Hymenopterans are a large taxonomic group of insects that exhibit diverse interactions with plants. The family Apidae includes bumblebees, solitary bees, stingless bees, and honey bees. These pollinating bees mostly protect themselves with a venomous sting, and in many cases their bodies are covered with hairs which trap and enable the transportation of pollen. There are around 700 species of bee to be found in Central Europe. In Germany alone, 547 species of wild bee have been identified. Most wild bees depend on wild flower species for nourishment, and their appetite demands a continuous supply of nectar, pollen and honeydew (the sugary excretion of the aphid). These insects are more than an attractive element of Europe’s biodiversity. Recent publications have described the estimated economic value of pollination, and the high figures have surprised many. Pollination is of key importance for agriculture and is supported by a whole community of insects - not only the honey bee - as part of a vital ecosystem service.[4] [5]

Andrena flavipes, Yellow Legged Mining Bee

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Pollinators and agriculture

Solitary bees

Solitary bees are wild bees; they live alone or in small colonies. Unlike bumblebees and honey bees the solitary bee never establishes complex social interactions. Solitary bee larvae may live in tubular tunnels or burrows dug by adult females, and often make use of opportune shelters such as empty snail shells, dry plant stems and cavities in wood. Many solitary bees have highly selective habitat requirements which limit their exploratory range and therefore their potential for pollinating many different species of plants [6] [7].

Bumblebees

Bumblebees have a plump body which is covered by black and coloured hair that often grows in a characteristic banded pattern. Bumblebees are social insects; they live in small annual-cycle colonies. Only queens (fertile females) are able to hibernate and start a new colony in the next spring. Bumblebees are sometimes used as pollinators in greenhouses, where crops such as tomatoes can be grown under carefully controlled conditions; for crops that would normally rely on wind pollination a greenhouse can be stocked with bumblebees, their movement around the plants leads to ‘buzz pollination’. This mechanical form of pollination results from the vibrations created by the strong flight muscles of the bumblebee; when a bumblebee feeds it ‘buzzes’ the flower and

Profile for ECPA

Pollinators & Agriculture  

Agricultural productivity and pollinator protection - Around 70% of the world’s most produced crop species rely to some extent on insect pol...

Pollinators & Agriculture  

Agricultural productivity and pollinator protection - Around 70% of the world’s most produced crop species rely to some extent on insect pol...