Non-Bee Insects as Visitors and Pollinators of Crops: Biology, Ecology, and Management

Annu Rev Entomol. 2020 Jan 7:65:391-407. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ento-011019-025055. Epub 2019 Oct 14.


Insects other than bees (i.e., non-bees) have been acknowledged as important crop pollinators, but our understanding of which crop plants they visit and how effective they are as crop pollinators is limited. To compare visitation and efficiency of crop-pollinating bees and non-bees at a global scale, we review the literature published from 1950 to 2018 concerning the visitors and pollinators of 105 global food crops that are known to benefit from animal pollinators. Of the 105 animal-pollinated crops, a significant proportion are visited by both bee and non-bee taxa (n = 82; 77%), with a total gross domestic product (GDP) value of US$780.8 billion. For crops with a narrower range of visitors, those that favor non-bees (n = 8) have a value of US$1.2 billion, compared to those that favor bees (n = 15), with a value of US$19.0 billion. Limited pollinator efficiency data were available for one or more taxa in only half of the crops (n = 61; 58%). Among the non-bees, some families were recorded visiting a wide range of crops (>12), including six families of flies (Syrphidae, Calliphoridae, Muscidae, Sarcophagidae, Tachinidae, and Bombyliidae), two beetle families (Coccinelidae and Nitidulidae), ants (Formicidae), wasps (Vespidae), and four families of moths and butterflies (Hesperiidae, Lycaenidae, Nymphalidae, and Pieridae). Among the non-bees, taxa within the dipteran families Syrphidae and Calliphoridae were the most common visitors to the most crops, but this may be an artifact of the limited data available. The diversity of species and life histories in these groups of lesser-known pollinators indicates that diet, larval requirements, and other reproductive needs will require alternative habitat management practices to bees.

Keywords: Coleoptera; Diptera; Lepidoptera; crop pollination; flower-visitor; pollinator efficiency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Crops, Agricultural*
  • Insecta*
  • Pollination*