China resorts to artificial pollination
China's indigenous honey bee -- Apis cerana -- previously survived under varied geographical conditions. But these are also dying off, China Daily reported.
Their population has decreased due to environmental pollution and competition from Italian bees -- Apis mellifera ligustica -- that were introduced in China just before the turn of the 20th century.
With the decline in the number of the insects, pollination now relies increasingly on the wind and human intervention.
Pears are a speciality of Hanyuan county in Sichuan province.
Farmers here usually harvest about five tons of pears a year, but this depends on artificial pollination rather than bees.
Each April, farmers collect flowers and male anthers to obtain pollen, which are dried for a few days.
They then tie a handful of feathers on a long bamboo pole to imitate the hairy bodies of bees. The feathers are lightly dipped in pollen and then applied to flowers on a fruit farm so that they are pollinated.
Each spring, hundreds of farmers climb up trees to pollinate flowers, one by one.
Tang Ya, a pollination researcher from Sichuan University, said: "For fruit growers, artificial pollination can guarantee profits, but as more young people leave their homes to seek jobs in cities, I'm afraid that artificial pollination will be very difficult to achieve in less than two decades."
A hive of bees can pollinate three million flowers a day, but a person can pollinate only 30 trees.