American native bees better at pollination than honey bees

In 2007, the world was introduced to a plague so disturbing it seemed almost biblical. Out of the blue, honey bees were dropping dead or worse, vanishing into the air by the millions. In the four years since, colony collapse disorder (CCD) has been a regular resident on newspaper front pages as scientists desperately try to puzzle out what’s wrong.

Certainly the stakes are high, considering that 35% of the world’s crops — amounting to $216 billion per year — depend on various creatures to ferry pollen from one flower to another. And certainly, if scientists cannot help honey bees recover, it could dramatically affect production of food.

But native American bees may be better pollinators than honey bees. In some cases, native bees — which often don’t have tidy pollen pouches on their legs — are messier than honey bees, and thus better at spreading pollen around. In other cases, natives just shake more loose. In fact, tomato farmers may see 50 percent more tomatoes that are twice as big if they get regular bumble bee visits.

Read more at University of California, Davis