stingless bees, honeybees, pollination

With the world’s global honeybee populations seeing various levels of decline and potentially further decreases in the future, scientists and entire governments are researching and seeking ways to improve not only honeybee numbers but also those of native wild bee species like bumblebees. Their importance to crop production is critical, as wild and “domesticated” pollinators are responsible for nearly one third of the food we consume. Without them, we’d be forced to perform manual pollination or learn to live without.

Stingless Bees

With the danger of losing honeybees becoming more probable every year, new strains and breeds of the insect, such as Indian stingless bees, are being considered for sustaining global crop production. According to recent reports, researchers from the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) as well as Kerala Agricultural University’s (KAU) honey bee research center are collaborating with Western Sydney University in Australia, and they plan to establish the Kerala stingless honeybee as a potential alternative pollinator.

Kerala Honeybee

The Kerala honeybee, specifically its Tetragonula variant, is native to Kerala, a southwest state in India, and this bee is tinier than customary European honeybees. With America and Europe seeing large portions of their honeybee populations dying off, whether from colony collapse disorder (CCD), pesticides, diseases, etc., Australia and India appear to be taking steps to prepare for the worst. As per leading bee researcher S. Devanesan, the deteriorating populations on other continents represent equally large threats elsewhere.

“The use of the neonicotinoid class of pesticides and effects of climate change are adversely impacting bees, which makes research on alternative pollinators relevant,” Devanesan said. As well, K S Prameela, a scientist with KAU’s All India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) on honeybees and pollinators, said, “Stingless bees have increased effectiveness as pollinators since they can enter smaller flowers. The main aim of the research here is to find out if stingless bees can be used for increased yield in fruits and vegetables in India and Australia.”

A Probable Alternative?

Traditional honeybees, despite their small size, carry incredible responsibility, but CCD and the continued use of harmful neonicotinoid pesticides have made that responsibility even more difficult for them to live by, with vast numbers dying around the globe when it could have easily been avoided. If it ever comes to the point where honeybee numbers are too low to maintain the world’s food supply, hope still remains. An AICRP study recently showed a roughly 20-25 percent rise in bitter gourd and cucumber crop harvests after the Kerala stingless bee was introduced as a pollinator in the Kerala state, as per Prameela. While we should still seek to increase the numbers for all bee species, there is at least a viable alternative.

Photo via Muhammad Naaim / Shutterstock

4 thoughts on “Stingless Bees – A Honeybee Alternative?

  1. Rick Woodfin

    I recently bought a farm and plan on growing some fruit and vegi crops on a small scale including inside a greenhouse. Would be interested in stingless bees since I am highly allergic to bee stings and the honeybee population in Virginia is way down. I need to know if these bees are okay in Virginia. Please let me know. Thank you.

    • ManukaHoneyUSA

      Please direct your question to the National Honey Board honey.com, they can help point you in the right direction. Kind regards Elaine

  2. Alexandre Acacio

    I recently started researching about stingless bees from Brazil and found very interesting.
    In USA there is any stingless native bees?
    Can we import any stingless bees from Brazil?
    What wil be the procedure to do so.
    What department in charge of this tipe of procedure.
    Thank you
    Best regards
    Alex Acacio

    • ManukaHoneyUSA

      Hello Alex
      We would not be the expert to give you any advice about importing stingless bees from Brazil.
      Most likely it would be illegal anyway, as anytime you bring a species of animals from
      one continent to another, it typically causes more problems, rather then solving an issue.
      You can contact the National Honey Board at http://www.honey.com, maybe they can get you in contact
      with a beekeeper who make have an answer to your questions? Kind regards Elaine

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