Bees and Pollination

Pollination is a vital ecosystem service that is essential to ensuring human food security as well as maintaining natural ecosystems. Over three quarters of all plants, including world food crops, rely on animal pollinators for yield and quality. Among these, insects such as bees, flies, butterflies etc., are the most important. They play a fundamental part in maintaining food security for humans. However, a range of factors such as excessive chemical pesticide application, land use changes resulting in loss of habitat, spread of pathogens, competition from alien species, and climate change, have led to an alarming decline in pollinator abundance and diversity both globally and in the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region. The serious implications of this decline have been uncovered in an extensive ICIMOD study carried out in the apple farming regions of the Himalayas (China, India, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal) that shows a severe decline in apple yield and quality as a result of inadequate pollination.  

A collaborative action research study conducted by ICIMOD and AKRSP in Chitral, Pakistan and Kullu valley of Himachal Pradesh, India, revealed that by introducing honeybees for pollination and training farmers to properly manage bee colonies greatly improved the yield and quality of apples. The economic opportunities that open up as a by-product of keeping honeybees are equally beneficial, with honey, beeswax and pollen etc. that can be consumed as health products, used in products such as cosmetics, and sold to earn cash income. 

Currently ICIMOD is continuing to promote honeybees for pollination services and products through various regional programs. The key approaches include action research, awareness raising, demonstration and capacity building. By implementing pilot pollination programmes across the HKH region with different crops, people, and environments, ICIMOD is exploring the feasibility and strategies for replicating and upscaling pollination programmes at a larger scale throughout the HKH region.