About 35% of the crops grown for consumption depend on pollinating insects such as bees. In the Netherlands, besides wild pollinators, bumblebees and honeybees are also used for this purpose. For example, they are used in the production of fruit, vegetables and seeds.
Fruit is a very important crop in the Netherlands, with a large acreage especially of apples and pears, but also ‘new’ crops such as blueberries. For good fruit formation, pollination is essential. Bees and bumblebees can help provide this 'service'. Bijen@wur has a great deal of in-house expertise on pollination, conducts applied research in this field and has many contacts with beekeepers and fruit growers.
In recent years, the research of Bijen@wur has made a substantial contribution to the use of pollinating insects in the production of greenhouse vegetables. In greenhouses, no wild pollinators are available, so pollination depends on 'domesticated' honeybees and bumblebees. Innovations are still taking place in this area.
Greenhouse horticulture is a sector characterised by rapid technical development in areas such as energy savings and optimising production processes. Assimilation lighting (to increase photosynthesis) is a good example of such technical development which is used in greenhouse crops such as tomatoes and bell peppers. This artificial light source ensures that plants receive enough light on dark or cloudy days to continue growing. However, in practice it became apparent that bumblebees had difficulty with this light source. Bijen@wur has conducted research into the cause of these problems.
Production of sowing seed
In cooperation with Inbuzz beekeepers, Bijen@wur has published a fact sheet summarising information about the role of honeybees in the production of sowing seeds. In this publication, the experience of the professional pollination beekeepers at Inbuzz is linked to the expertise of the researchers at Bijen@wur.
An important step in the production of food crops and ornamental crops is the cultivation of the seeds for these crops. For good seed formation, pollination is essential for many crops. Honeybees are widely used in the production of seeds, but this type of pollination is often difficult to achieve. A great deal of knowledge and expertise is required.
The fact sheet was financed by beekeeping associations ABTB, ANI and NBV.