A new study has revealed that bees, which are known for their role in pollinating plants and honey production, have crucial role in the economy. 

A study conducted by David Kleijn, from the Wageningen University in Netherlands, and colleagues has found that in the UK, these busy insects contribute more to the economy than the British monarchy.

By looking at how food crops rely on these little pollinators to grow and how much of the sale from these crops contribute to the economy of the UK, researchers have found that these insects have significant contributions to the economy contributing £651 million per year, which is £150 million more than the amount that the Royal Family contributes through tourism.

It appears, however, that there are busier species of bees. The researchers also found that only 2 percent of the most common species of wild bees are responsible for pollinating 80 percent of the crops, which include pears, apples, coffee and cacao chocolate.

The researchers found that the overall economic value of bees has increased by 191 percent from 1996 to 2012. The study also showed that 85 percent of the apple crops in the UK and 45 percent of strawberry crops depend on bees to grow. The amount of money these two crops alone brought to Britain in 2012 is £200 million.

The study, which was published in the journal Nature Communications on June 16, likewise found that the wild bees responsible for pollinating most of the crops were more likely to thrive in agricultural landscape regardless of the fragmentation of their habitat and the widespread use of pesticide.

"Dominant crop pollinators persist under agricultural expansion and many are easily enhanced by simple conservation measures, suggesting that cost-effective management strategies to promote crop pollination should target a different set of species than management strategies to promote threatened bees," wrote Kleijn and colleagues.

Although only a small number of bees are crucial for crops, scientists said that providing protection to a wide range of bees would provide a buffer for ecological shocks that may occur in the future. Experts also said that the few species of bees that currently help with the pollination of crops may not be the same type needed in the future.

"It is critical to protect a wide range of bees and other insects now so that, as Britain's climate, environment and crop varieties change, we can call on the pollinating species which are best suited to the task," said Simon Potts, from the University of Reading.

Photo: Bob Peterson | Flickr

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