Free Access
Volume 37, Number 4, July-August 2006
Page(s) 421 - 451
Published online 24 June 2006
Apidologie 37 (2006) 421-451
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2006019

A century of advances in bumblebee domestication and the economic and environmental aspects of its commercialization for pollination

Hayo H.W. Velthuisa and Adriaan van Doornb

a  Klemit 1, 5325 KG Wellseind, The Netherlands
b  BumbleConsult, Rodenrijseweg 529, 2651 AR Berkel en Rodenrijs, The Netherlands

(Received 2 May 2005 - revised 1 November 2005 - accepted 8 November 2005 - published online 24 June 2006)

Abstract - This paper reviews a century of progress in techniques of bumblebee rearing, starting with those used to encourage bumblebee queens to initiate a colony in artificial domiciles and including those needed for the commercial production of large numbers of colonies for the pollination of agricultural crops. Five species of bumblebees are currently used for crop pollination, the major ones being Bombus terrestris from Eurasia and Bombus impatiens from North America. As a result of their frequent use in foreign territories, there have been reports of B. terrestris becoming established, as well as interactions and/or competition with local (bumble-) bee fauna. Of the many vegetable, fruit and seed crops that bumblebees pollinate, greenhouse tomatoes are of predominant importance. In 2004, 40 000 ha of tomato crops were pollinated, with a crop value of € 12 000 million. The growers benefit from bumblebee pollination because of lower production costs, increased yields, and improved fruit quality. The interrelationship between commercial mechanisms and ecological risks is discussed.

Key words: bumblebee / pollination / commercial rearing / economic value / ecological impact

© INRA, DIB-AGIB, EDP Sciences 2006