Pollination by bees and other insects is important for getting the best yields. Photo credit: Tom Breeze.

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Pollination by bees and other insects is important for getting the best yields of most of the crops we grow in Europe. But despite the importance of pollinators, we know very little about what crops beekeepers use to support their hives (and why) and what crops farmers hire bees for (and why). To explore this, we created two surveys, one for beekeepers and one for farmers, which we distributed online in 10 European countries.

Our findings show that most beekeepers are concerned about exposing their bees to pesticides and often said they avoided certain crops because of this, even though other beekeepers were keen to use these same crops because they produce lots of honey. On the other hand, almost half the farmers we surveyed were concerned that they weren’t getting as good a crop as they could because they weren’t getting enough pollinators in their fields. The farmers who used flower strips or kept their own bees however were less likely to be worried about this.

Our surveys show an opportunity for farmers and beekeepers to work together more across Europe. Although beekeepers were worried about pesticides, they would rather farmers use less of them than ban them outright. Professional beekeepers were less worried about pesticides but would like to get paid more to supply hives to farmers, either by farmers paying them more, or by government subsidies for beekeeping. Future research can build on our findings to help these two groups establish a stable pollination market that is good for beekeepers, farmers and us as consumers.