What Price Pollination?

Oct 1, 2008

What are insect pollinators worth to the global economy?

Well, it's a lot less than the Wall Street bailout...er...rescue plan.

Recent research published in the journal Ecological Economics  reveals just how important insect pollinators are.

A Eureka Alert press release issued by the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres says that a team of French and German scientists found that the "worldwide economic value of the pollination service provided by insect pollinators, bees mainly, was $153 billion in 2005 for the main crops that feed the world."

That amounts to 9.5 percent of the total value of the world agricultural food production.

The study says that fruit and vegetables account for about a third of that total. The bee shortage has already hurt growers and consumers worldwide. Pollinator disappearance "would translate into a consumer surplus loss estimated between $190 to $310 billion," the news release says.

A Sept. 26 article in Business Week noted that "California almond growers, who require 1.5 million bee colonies for pollination, are renting hives for $200 each, up from $35 two years ago. In China, where pesticide overuse has killed off pollinators in some fruit orchards, farm workers have resorted to dabbing pollen into blooms by hand."

California's growing almond acreage, which now exceeds 700,000, requires two hives per acre. Our state does not have enough bees to pollinate the almonds, so bees are trucked in all over.

Honey bee researchers think that stress may be one of the factors in the declining bee population.  Other factors: malnutrition, diseases, pesticides, parasites and changing climates. 

Colony collapse disorder, a phenomonon characterized by bees mysteriously abandoning their hives, is probably due to those multiple factors, according to UC Davis apiculturist Eric Mussen.

The declining bee population, the growing need for pollination, and the burgeoning U.S. financial crisis--those issues should concern us all.



By Kathy Keatley Garvey
Author - Communications specialist

Attached Images:

The honey bee, resplendent here with silvery wings, is gold to the global economy. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Silver wings

A honey bee visits an almond blossom. California's 700,000 acres of almonds require two hives per acre for pollination. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bee on almond blossom