The general public confuses bees with the honey bee (Apis mellifera). There are around 20.000 species of wild bees and they are the most important wild pollinators. They are mostly solitary and unlike honey bees they are suited to specific plants, which makes them more effective at pollinating.
For example, pollinating a hectare of apple trees would require tens of thousand of honey bees but only hundreds of Osmia Cornuta, which are particularly good at apple flower pollination. Another example: the tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants flowers (between many others) require “a shake” to release their pollen, and bumblebees are perfectly suited for this job because of their strong vibrating buzz. Honeybees don’t have that skill.
Still from the animation of Passion Pictures Studios
Each flowering plant is strongly connected to a pollinator that fits accordingly to the Lock and Key principle. The perfect fit between the flower and the selected pollinator is the product of ongoing evolution for centuries. Producing pollen has a cost for the plant in terms of energy. So she wants that the pollen produced is transported effectively in order to be able to reproduce. Here is where the bumblebee enters (video).
Worldwide wild bee diversity has been decreasing since the 1990’s. Pesticides, extensive agriculture and habitat loss are the main drivers. This loss in diversity can cause knock-on effects on the ecosystems. Less pollinator diversity means fewer wild plants, causing a decrease on animals which use them for food. However, it also represents a danger to food security, because the yield of cultivated plants is higher when they are visited by a variety of pollinators compared to when they are only visited by honeybees.