What is an HPH EF payment

When fruit growers hire bee colonies

Apple, cherry, apricot, plum and mirabelle trees stand in the fields of the Nickolaus family around the Mainz suburb of Drais. In order to be able to harvest in summer and autumn, the flowers must now be pollinated. In order for this to be guaranteed, farmer Thomas Nickolaus, like all of his professional colleagues, has to provide pollination tutoring.

Two weeks ago he had several bee colonies delivered to him, which are now buzzing out of boxes under the fruit trees. The bees come from Hanover, where currently much less flowers than here in the warm southwest.

Bee services for money

The animal guest workers use the early Rhenish Hessian fruit blossom to collect plenty of pollen, build up their colonies and then return to the north strengthened. In return, the fruit grower can look forward to the pollination performance of the bees: "This is a win-win situation, so to speak," says Nickolaus. That is why there is no money for this collaboration.

Quite different with many of his colleagues: Beekeepers often only offer the services of their bees for money, the so-called "pollination premium". Numerous beekeepers have now turned pollination into their own business model. If you order bees in the plantation with a click of the mouse, you pay 40 euros per colony.

Pollination is worth billions

Examples that show: honey bees are indispensable for agriculture. According to an estimate by the University of Hohenheim, the annual pollination performance of bees in Germany amounts to around 2.5 billion euros.

Thomas Nickolaus estimates that around 30 to 40 percent of the harvest would be lost if there weren't any honey bees in the plantations. They are especially important in years when the weather is initially rather bad. "It is crucial that you can ensure good fertilization within two to three days. And they can only do this in a short time if there are enough honey bees in the facility," says Nickolaus.

Wild bees have to help

On the other hand, it is not enough just to rely on the honey bee. Thomas Nickolaus has also been relying on wild bees for several years.

Cut pieces of wood with holes, reed and cardboard tubes and plastic honeycombs serve as nesting boxes. Wild bees now pollinate at least as many flowers in Thomas Nickolaus' fields as honey bees.

Drastic consequences of insect death

The consequences for the fruit grower would be much more expensive than any animal pollination tutoring if no more insects would fly through their facilities. In some regions in China, for example, the bees have almost disappeared due to the consequences of industrialized agriculture and the environmental toxins used there. People there take on the task of pollinating flowers with the help of cotton balls.

Author: Dominik Bartoschek, SWR Environment and Nutrition | Online: Sola Hülsewig