Wild insects may be essential to farmers' success. A worldwide study of wild pollinators' role in agriculture found that a diverse community of wild insects correlated to improved crop productivity. Large numbers of beneficial wild bugs increased the amount of fruit set, or the degree to which crops' flowers were successfully pollinated to produce grain or fruit.
Unfortunately, loss of habitat, indiscriminate pesticide use and other causes have obliterated insect biodiversity on many farms. To make up for the loss of wild pollinators, farmers often pay to have hives of honeybees trucked to their fields. Some farmers also establish permanent hives on their land. The USDA estimated that bee pollination accounts for more than $15 billion in increased crop value each year.
However, honeybees increased the pollination success on only 14 percent of the 600 farms studied by the recent research published in Science.
"Our study shows that losses of wild insects from agricultural landscapes impact not only our natural heritage but also our agricultural harvests," said lead author Lucas A. Garibaldi of the Universidad Nacional de Río Negro, Argentina in a press release. "Long term, productive agricultural systems should include habitat for both honey bees and diverse wild insects. Our study prompts for the implementation of more sustainable agricultural practices."