A world without bees: new insights from Australia for managing sustainability in a changing climate

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Insect pollination is essential for many flowering plants that underpin agriculture and food production, as well as the ecological management of terrestrial environments. Several studies report that insect pollination is responsible for over 33% of food production, worth more than 200 billion US$/year to the international economy. Traditionally, honeybees (Apis mellifera) and bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) are used as managed species for agricultural crop pollination. These insects are also an important model species for improving scientific understanding of bee sensory processing. With increased awareness of the value of pollination in a changing world, it is important to better understand alternative pollinators, especially how different species tolerate changing environmental conditions. This review encapsulates a decade of comparative research that was principally conducted in Australia, a uniquely placed island continent that facilitates insights into complex processes operating over evolutionary time. Using a combination of field biology, imaging and computer modelling, it has been possible to establish that changes in pollinators result in significant changes in flower colour signaling independent of plant phylogeny. This work proves that pollinator distributions act as a selective factor on the success of plants. We highlight the limitations of current knowledge about the distributions of pollinators caused by data collection constraints. We then present tangible solutions for how technological applications such as mining of information from social network sites, and the use of imaging data combined with artificial intelligence can enhance our understanding of pollinator networks to help manage sustainable food production in a changing world.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-29
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • artificial intelligence (AI)
  • camera imaging
  • conservation
  • Flower colour
  • food production
  • insect pollination

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