Fresh from the Field, June 21, 2018

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Fresh from the Field is a weekly album showcasing transformative impacts made by partners supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Editor: Falita Liles                                                                                              June 21, 2018

Success Stories 

Fresh from the Field NIFA Impacts sweat bee USDA photo

Beyond Honey Bees

Declines in bee populations around the world have been widely reported over the past several decades. Much attention has focused on honey bees, which commercial beekeepers transport all over the United States to pollinate crops. Scientists at Michigan State University (MSU) have made a complete assessment of native and domesticated pollinators in the Great Lakes region. Their report may provide answers in conservation and best management practices.

We need bees for food security and to maintain healthy ecosystems. Bees pollinate flowering trees and wildflowers, which in turn provide food and homes for other animals and improve water, air, and soil quality.

Along with honey bees, wild bees are also vital for crop pollination. Research has shown that the presence of wild bees increases yields across many types of crops. They often are more efficient at pollinating crops native to North America than honey bees.

NIFA supports this research through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative

Read the full story at MSU Today. USDA photo.

Fresh from the Field NIFA Impacts honey bees photo USDA

UNH Researchers Find Drastic Decline in N.H.’s Bumble Bees 

Researchers with the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) have found three of the state’s most important bumble bee species have experienced drastic declines and range constriction over the last 150 years. A fourth bee was in significant decline.

"Wild bees, particularly bumble bees, are highly important pollinators for both agriculture and unmanaged ecosystems. They have experienced alarming declines in recent decades, and in order to effectively work towards their protection, information about their life histories, ecological roles, and distributional changes on a more local scale is needed," according to Sandra Rehan, assistant professor of biological sciences at UNH.

NIFA supports this research through Hatch Act Funds.

Read more at NIFA’s Blog.

 Fresh from the Field NIFA Impacts photo USGS Bee Inventory

Bumble Bee Queens Under Pressure

Spring is a busy time for bumble bee queens. After emerging from hibernation, their to-do list includes making nests, laying eggs, and keeping their larvae warm and fed. It’s physiologically demanding and the stakes are high: the success of the colony depends on a queen’s solitary work during this time. Unlike honey bees, which are perennial, bumble bee colonies arise each year from the work of a single queen to establish a nest of up to 400 workers.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside found that environmental threats are piling onto the stress faced by nest-building bumble bee queens. The team found that exposure to a widely used insecticide and a poor diet negatively impacted bumble bee queens’ health and work, which could have dramatic consequences on an already dwindling pollinator group.

Bumble bees are workhorses of the insect pollinator world, playing a key role in both natural and agricultural ecosystems. Crops as diverse as tomato, blueberry, and red clover all depend heavily on their pollination services. Bumble bees, which are both fast and fuzzy, are highly efficient at transporting pollen from one flower to another.

NIFA supports this research through Hatch Act Funds.

Read the full article at UCR Today. Photo: USGS Bee Inventory.


Fresh from the Field k5400 1 USDA ARS Photo

Beekeeping in Rural and Urban Areas of Ohio

Honey bees across the United States are suffering as agricultural land is planted with crops less suitable for bees at the expense of and bee-sustaining crops like alfalfa and clover. Heightened interest in beekeeping has attracted new beekeepers, largely from urban areas. Urban beekeepers suffer higher rates of colony loss than their rural counterparts, which may be due to their inexperience or other factors in the urban landscape, such as toxic exposure or differences in flower availability. 

Ohio State University entomologists, in cooperation with the Ohio State Beekeepers Association, compared flowers used by urban bees to flowers typically available in rural areas. They studied new beekeepers in urban, suburban, and rural Ohio to track colony productivity; colonies produced less honey as the landscape became more urban. Urban bees are less productive, likely due to a lack of flowers in Ohio cities in late-summer and fall. 

Researchers also collected pollen from bees in urban and rural locations to identify which plants the bees visit in the late-summer and fall. Observation hives were placed on the edge of Columbus, Ohio, to determine whether bees would choose to forage in the suburban area or in the nearby corn and soybean fields outside of the city. When given a choice, honey bees forage on clover and goldenrod that are abundant in agricultural areas and avoid foraging in urban locations.

Honey bees and other pollinators are vital for the local production of fruits and vegetables as well as locally produced honey. As urbanization continues, expanding the urban bee-keeping market may be the key to honeybee survival. Encouraging cities to plant clovers and goldenrods will provide a greater source of pollen in the late-summer and fall, when forage is otherwise limited. Supportive plantings will increase the honey crop for beekeepers and provide honey bee colonies with the nutrition they need to prepare for and survive the winter season. Additionally, new education programs can help new improve colony success.

Providing foraging areas for pollinators will increase the number of pollinators in urban and suburban areas, which in turn increases the income of beekeepers. Since bees pollinate a large number of flowers and agricultural crops, it is expected that an increase in the bee population would lead to more successful farmers as well.

NIFA supports this research through Multistate Research Funds.

Read more at the Land-Grants Impact Database. USDA photo.

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