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Pollinator Diversity In Fruit Crops And Enhancement Of Fruit Production Through Scientific Beekeeping

Pollinator Diversity In Fruit Crops And Enhancement Of Fruit Production Through Scientific Beekeeping

By Dr. Suchisree Jha (Young Professional , ICAR – CISH Regional Research Institute, Malda, West Bengal, India)


In the world, India is one of the largest honey producer and exporter country, sharing pivot role in world honey production and trade. India is also considered as “land of honey”. Beekeeping is an ancient human practice which has been mentioned in Vedas and Buddhist literature. The traditional beekeeping were practiced during early 19th century whereas scientific beekeeping started in later part of the 19th century. The diversity in flora and fauna of our planet provides tremendous potentiality for beekeeping and sustenance of beekeeping industry. Five commercially important bee species for honey and wax production are found in India, indicating wide scope of beekeeping. Pollinators play efficient role in pollinating fruit crops and lead to increase quantitative and qualitative changes of fruit crops. The increase in yield due to honeybee ranges from 5 to 3000 % depending upon the type selection of the crops. Hence it is necessary to understand the importance of species richness of pollinators in their natural habitat.


Honeybees are vital in sustaining plant bio-diversity and also improve yield of crops by cross-pollination. Beekeeping is an ideal agro based rural enterprise which is being undertaken by farmers/peoples in rural areas as an integrated farming practice. It is an enthralling occupation to the rural people with a good source of income and low cost input. Beekeeping can be done by the domestication of two species of honey bee namely Apis cerena and Apis mellifera depending upon the floral condition of crops and capability of investment by the farmers. Currently, unemployment is increasing and number of economically challenged is gradually increasing due to demographic pressures. There is an opportunity to raise the economic and social status of weaker sections of the rural communities within the overall context of human resource development by the Apiculture. Pollination is an important ecosystem service which provides 35 % of global crop-based food production through animal-mediated through animal through animal-mediated pollination. Among species about 3/4th crops cultivated worldwide, depends on pollinators to a great extent and these pollinators lead to improvement in quality and yield of fruit crops. Production of quality honey and their processing is the demand of the day for getting greatest return. Though the honeybees are best known for honey production but they have an important role in nature as a good pollinator. Therefore, honey bees have vital role in sustaining plant bio-diversity resulting in environmental stability.

Status Of Bee Keeping In India

The bee pollination is known as Melittophily. Honey Bees play a vital role in sustaining plant bio-diversity with environmental stability. It is being increasingly realized that bees could be the less expensive input for promoting sustainable and eco-friendly agriculture and enhancing crop productivity. Crops/Flowers are essentially required for development of honey bees. At present Indian agricultural scenario of honey bees should be treated as input for overall development for agriculture. In India maximum number of bee keepers and bee colonies are observed in Uttar Pradesh (2324 & 352516) followed by Punjab (968 & 28631), Haryana (810 & 161820) and Bihar (802 & 144594) (NHB, 2018). According to estimate the value of additional yield obtained by pollination service by honey bees is 15-20 times more than the value of all hive products put together whereas the value of bee pollination in Western Europe is estimated to be 30-50 times greater the value of honey and wax production in the region. In India, Himachal Pradesh is the only state where farmers are using ‘Managed’ bee pollination. Beekeepers from nearby or adjoining states bring colonies for pollination on rent basis. The rental charges is around Rs. 600 – Rs. 800 /colony. However only 25 % of the demand of the farmers is met with the required number of bee colonies whereas in India 50 million hectare crop area is dependent on bee pollination. The total number of bee colonies in India are 12,67,271 (Fig.1) and honey production is also increasing in every year (Fig.2).

Fig 1 : Status of honey bee colonies in India

Fig 2: Year wise honey production, import and export potential

Pollinators Diversity In Fruit Crops

Pollinators play valuable role in pollination not only for wild plants and agronomic crops but also useful for several fruit crop species and these pollinators ( insect & animal ) are vital component in the plant’s produce. More than 75% of the 1,300 crop plants grown around the world are pollinated by animals. Globally, it has been observed that there are 200,000 to 350,000 animal species which act as pollinators. For adequate pollination 50% of the existing species of plants are dependent on insects. Pollinators are from diverse group of animal kingdom, which includes animals, bats, birds, reptiles and insects. Among the insect pollinators, bees, beetles, flies, butterflies, moths, wasps, midges and ants plays major role in pollination service. Out of all the insect pollinators, bees are the most important group of insect pollinators. In addition to domesticated honeybees, wild honeybees, bumble bees and solitary bees aid to pollination. In India research focus on pollinators and their management is very limited. Bee keeping in India is practiced predominantly for honey production. India is considered as a center of diversity for honey bees. Out of eight Apis spp found in honey bees, six are indigenous whereas A. mellifera is introduced from USA. In spite of honey bees other pollinators in fruit crops are stingless bees, bumble bees, alkali bees, scoliidae, andrenids, xylocopids, and megachilids which contribute significantly to pollination of fruit crops.

Table 1:Pollinator’s diversity in fruits crops.

Crop Pollinators
Apple Syrphid fly, Conopid fly, Andrena sp., Bombus, Osmia sp., Apis cerana, A. mellifera, Bombus tunicatus, B. haemor-rhoidalis, Vespa mandarina, V. veluti-na, V. flaviceps, Polistes maculipennis, Halictus dasygaster, Camponotus sp., Eristalis tenax, E. himalayensis, E. cere-alis, E. angustimarginalis, E. arvorum, Metasyrphus corollae, Scaeva pyrastri, Musca domestica, Fannia domestica, Calliphora vicina
Aonla Honey bees
Avocado Honey bees, hover flies and native bees
Almond Apis cerana, Apis mellifera, Apis dorsa-ta, Bombus tunicatus, Bombus terrestris, Vespa flaviceps, Polistes maculipennis, Halictus dasygaster, Camponotus sp., Elis thoracica, Eristalis tenax, Eristalis cerealis, Eristalis himalayensis, Scaeva opimius, Syrphus sp., Musca domestica, Fannia domestica, Calliphora vicina, Lucilia sp., Scathophaga stereoraria, Promachus sp., Dolichopus sp., Pieris canidia, Gonepteryx rhamni, Pyrameis indica, Vanessa cance, Sphinx moth, Coccinella septumpunctata, Coccinella sp., Altica sp., Apis cerana, Apis mellif-era, Halictus alphenus.
Banana A. mellifera, A. cerana, A. dorsata (honey bee)
Ber Sarcophaqa sp, Chrysomya megacephala, Apis florea, Yellow wasp (Polistes Herbreaus), Apis florea, Apis cerana indica,Ceratina sp., Trigona sp, Sarcophaga sp., Chrysomya megacephala, Musca domestica, Butterflies (Papilio polytes Romulus, Phalantha phalantha, Euploea core, Castalius rosimon)
Bael Honeybees, hover fly, yellow wasp, carpenter bee, weevil, black ants and butterflies
Custard apple Nitidulid beetle
Citrus Musca domestica, Sarcophaga sp., Apis mellifera, orthalia sp., Episyr-phus balteatus, Lasioglossum (Evy-laeus) sp., Apis cerana, Apis florae, Lucilia sp., Osmia sp., Apis dorsata, Ischiodon scutellaris, Lasioglossum sp., Melanostoma orientale, Megan-drena s.str. sp., Eupeodes confrater
Cherries Apis mellifera, Solitary bee, Syr-phid fly, Vespa mandarina, Vespa velutina, Vespa flaviceps, Polistes maculipennis, Polistes sp., Bombus tunicatus, Halictus dasygaster, Xylocopa fenestrata. Eristalis tenax, Eristalis arvorum, Eristalis hima-layensis, Macrosyrphus sp., Episyr- phus sp.; Musca domestica, Fannia domestica Lucilia sp., Pieris canid-ia, Pieris sp., Vanessa cance, Neptis sp., Heliothis sp., Plusia sp., Nysius sp., Adolenda typicaic, Coccinella septumpunctata.
Mango House fly, Honey bees, allodapine bee, Sweat bees, little honey bee, stingless bee, giant honey bee, blow flies, syrphid flies, Wasp, dragon fly, love bugs, blue bottle fly, lady bird beetle, coccinellid beetle, bumble bee
Strawberry Bombus lucorum, Honey bee (A. mellifera,), Bumble bee, Hoverflies (Syrphid fly), Sweat bee, Butterflies, Lady beetles, Soldier beetles, Lygus bugs, Spotted cucumber beetles, Strawberry clipper weevils
Guava Honey bees, Giant honey bee (Apis dorsata), dwarf honey bee (Apis florea), Eastern honey bee (Apis cerana), stingless bee (Tetragonula iridipennis)
Pomegranate Honey bees
Peach Vespa auraria, Vespa magnifica, Polistes maculipennis, Polistes sp., Apis cerana, Apis mellifera, Bom-bus tunicatus, Halictus dasygas-ter, Xylocopa fenestrate, Ceratina hieroghyphica, Holocomyrmex sp., Athalia sp. and Fileantha sp.
Pear Vespa magnifica, Vespa auraria, Vespa flaviceps, Polistes maculi-pennis, Apis cerana, Apis mellif-era, Bombus tunicatus, Halictus dasygaster, Xylocopa fenestrate, Camponotus sp., Eristalis arvorum, Eristalis himalayensis, Eristalis tenax, Eristalis cerealis, Syrphus sp., Scaeva opimius, Musca domes-tica, Fannia domestica, Calliphora vicina, Lucilia sp., Dolichopus sp., Pieris canidia, Pieris sp., Vanessa cance, Pyrameis indica, Heliothis sp., Zyganea sp. Coccinella septum-punctata, Altica sp. bumble bees and carpenter bees.
Plum Apis cerana, Apis mellifera, Bombus tunicatus, Vespa auraria, Halictus dasygaster, Eristalis sp., Macrosyr-phus sp., Metasyrphus sp., Musca domestica, Musca sp., Pieris canid-ia, Vanessa sp., Plusia sp., Heodes sp., Coccinella septumpunctata, Apis dorsata and Apis florea
Litchi Indian Honey bee, European honey bee, rock bee, little bee, stingless bee, sweat bee, black ant, yellow wasp, syrphid fly, blue fly, house fly, green bottle fly, tachinid fly, lady bird beetle, citrus butterfly, carpenter bee, reduviid bug.
Passion fruit A. mellifera (honey bee), Xylocopa vanpuncta (carpenter bees)
Papaya Wasps, midges, thrips, syrphid flies, butterflies, Apis sp., Trigo- na sp., Camponotus compresssus, Papilio polytes, Cephonodes hylas, Borbo sp, and Nectarinia sp.
Fig Female fig wasp
Sapota Thrips

Scientific Beekeeping

According to Satapathy (2016), scientific bee keeping is both the art and science of getting colonies of desired honeybee species, hiving them in the standard specified and appropriate bee boxes followed by installation in appropriate sites and managing their optimum number of colonies scientifically round the year. The scientific beekeeping results, both direct and indirect benefits to the beekeepers.

The Important Features Of Scientific Beekeeping Are As Follows

1. It is very simple and easy process to learn and adopt but it requires curiosity, patience, basic in- formations of bee behavior and beekeeping.

2. As like other enterprises, it cannot be per- formed by reading, hearing or seeing the activity of other apiaries unless their practical involvement. Hence, for practicing scientific bee keeping one must have successfully trained with theoretical and practical knowledge.

3. It does not provide immediate and direct return to the bee keepers.

4. It needs intensive and good management practices round the year.

5. Honey flow season lasting for more or less 4-5 months in a year.

6. In a scientific beekeeping practices selection of appropriate site, selection of good quality bees, placing the colonies at appropriate distance, timely inspection, supply of fresh water in the apiary, proper and timely dearth and seasonal management, precaution or intensive care during honey harvesting etc. are essentially followed.

7.In spite of high investment in input during first year, beekeepers feel utility the benefits from sec- and year and from third year onwards there is a very less investment and it continues as long as it is man- aged carefully and scientifically.

8.Scientific beekeeping results into better health of honey bees and also gives good quality honey with better economic return.

Pollination Dependence And Responsiveness Of Fruit Crops

Pollination is a vital process for life sustenance. Bees and other pollinators have a position in pollination for millions of years to ensure food security and nutrition and maintaining biodiversity, thus they help to create a vigorous ecosystem for plants, human as well as foe bees themselves. On the basis of pollination dependency the fruit crops are classified in five categories (Table 2).

Table 2. Categorization of fruit crops on the basis of pollination dependency.

Essential Highly Dependent Moderately Dependent Slightly Dependent Not important
Atemoya, Brazil Nut, Cocoa, Kiwi, Macadamia, Passion Fruit, Pawpaw, Rowanberry, Sapodilla Almond, Apple, Apricot, Avocado, Blueberry, Cashew, Cranberry, Durian, Feijoa, Loquat, Mango, Naranjillo, Nutmeg, Peach, Pear, Pimento, Plum, Raspberry, Sour Cherry, Starfruit, Strawberry (Cross-Pollinated Varieties), Sweet Cherry Blackcurrant, Chestnut, Elderberry, Fig, Guava, Jujube, Mammee, Pomegranate, Prickly Pear Citrus (Most Varieties), Hog Plum, Longan, Lychee, Oil Palm, Papaya, Persimmon, Rambutan, Star Apple, Strawberry (Wind-Pollinated Varieties), Tamarind Grape, Olive, Quinoa

The importance of pollination by honeybee fruit crops cannot be underestimated. Pollination responsiveness of a crop refers to the percentage dependence of flowering crops on the pollinators (Table 3).

Table 3. Pollination responsiveness of fruit crops

Fruit crops Responsiveness (%)
Almond 100
Apple 100
Blueberry 100
Macadamia 90
Cherries 90
Grapefruit 80
Plum and Prune 70
Nectarine 60
Mandarin 30
Lemon 20
Avocado 100
Pear 50-100
Mango 90
Kiwi 80
Citrus 0-80
Apricot 70
Orange 30
Lime 20
Papaya 20

Source: Pollination Aware: The Real Value of Pollination in Australia (RIRDC Pub. No. 10-081, August 2010)

Role Of Beehive Density And Scientific Beekeeping In Fruit Production

Honeybee hive density has a positive effect on the yield of the fruit crops. In fruit crops determination of honey bee stock density for pollination service is important for efficient resource use, better bee health and maximization of production. It is mainly due to more efficient and effective pollination by honey bees which not only increase the yield but also increase the quality of fruit. Several researches have been carried out on beehive density in fruit crops and using of appropriate beehives do necessitate for increasing the number of fruit/tree, fruit weight, shelf life, quality and ultimately resulting in better yield. The different researches carried out for number of beehives and their effect on yield is mentioned in (Table 4).

Table 4. Bee hive density and increase in yield of different fruit crops

Fruit Crop Bee hive density*(hives/ha) Increase in yield
Almond 6-10  
Apple 100
Apple 0.62-5 180-6950
Apricot 3-5  
Avocado 2-10  
Black currant   70%
Blackberry 2-5  
Blueberry 1-10  
Cherry 2  
Citrus var.   21-411
Cranberry 7-8  
Grape   756.4-6,700
Guava   70-140
Kiwifruit 8  
Litchi 2-3 4,538-10,246
Macadamia Nut 5-8  
Mango >2  
Mosambi   36-750
Orange   471-900
Papaya   22.4-88.9
Passion fruit 2-3  
Peach, nectarine 2.5  
Pear 3-4 240-6,014
Persimmon 2-3 20.8
Plum 2-4 6.7-2,739
Raspberry 0.5-2.5 291.3-462.5
Sour cherry 1-2  
Strawberry 1-22 17.4-91.9
Sweet cherry 5 56.1-1,000


Beekeeping was known in India since ages. Its references are found in ancients Vedic and Buddhist literature. The scientific principles to Indian traditional beekeeping were started to be functional at the end of nineteenth century. Beekeeping also helps to increase crops production in terms of quantitative and qualitative manner. Pollinators increase the biodiversity, and it has been observed that there is a positive correlation between plant diversity and pollinator diversity. The pollinator population of an area is the indicator of the overall health of an ecosystem. Pollinator dependent plant communities help to bind the soil and reduces erosion. In conclusion, our study suggests that pollinator diversity, stocking density and scientific beekeeping in a comprehensive way clearly increase the economic value for not only to beekeeper but also for the welfare of the ecosystem.