What is it?
Pollination is the fertilisation of agricultural crops and other plants by honeybees or other insects, including wild bees, hoverflies, bumble bees and butterflies. In the Netherlands, pollination is economically important mainly in fruit growing (apples, pears, cherries), horticulture (tomatoes, aubergines, peppers) and seed production (cabbage, lettuce, carrots, onions). However, pollination is also vital for countless wild flowers, plants, bushes and trees. Roughly 84 per cent of all European crops depend on pollination to reproduce.
Although plants can be pollinated manually in some cases, pollination by insects (especially honeybees) is much more efficient and cheaper. If natural pollination were to stop, we could not produce as much food. It is estimated that the loss of production would cost the Dutch agricultural, fruit-growing and horticultural industries about a billion euros a year. There would also be adverse implications for biodiversity in nature and for areas of public greenery.
In real life
Most crop pollination is done by honeybees. Dependency on one inspect species could lead to problems in the future, because the honeybee is under pressure from disease, pesticides and loss of habitat. Honeybee populations are currently declining. Although the cause of the decline is not entirely clear, it seems likely that honeybees are more likely to thrive if pesticide use is minimised and if the bees have a continuous and varied food supply. Making more use of other (wild) pollinators in addition to honeybees can help to assure the pollination service. Wild pollination can be encouraged by creating suitable habitats where the insects can forage (find and eat food), make their homes and breed.