Bee gathering pollen.

MN Impact: University of Minnesota Research on Wild Bees Provides New Information to Help Conservationists

November 25, 2019

Objective

Research will provide information to assist conservationists in establishing new habitats to increase abundance and diversity of native bees (reported as the number of native bee species collected).

Issue

The decline of some native bee species has prompted conservation actions by numerous state, federal, non-profit and private institutions. Despite the rapid increase in new habitats, for these efforts to be affective more information is needed on the best ways to help native bees. 

What has been done

There is a prevailing assumption that honey bees can do well in agricultural areas but that wild bees need natural areas to thrive. To test this theory, Elaine Evans, Dan Cariveau and Marla Spivak compared wild bee community success with health and survival of managed honey bees at six apiary locations over three years.

They then examined wild bee communities and surrounding land uses at 18 locations, three of which where spatially associated with each of the six apiary locations.

Results

In total, 13,426 bees were collected representing 149 species. This represented approximately 75 percent of the estimated minimum bee species number in the area.

Grasslands, bee-forage crops, wooded areas and wetlands were associated with increased wild bee abundance and diversity while crops that do not provide forage for bees saw decreases across all measurements (honey production, nesting sites, bee abundance, species diversity). Wild bee abundance and species diversity were also positively correlated with honey production showing that locations supporting successful honey bee colonies also supported successful wild bee communities.

These results suggest, habitat establishment and enhancement in agro-ecosystems can serve both groups of pollinators and conservationists should focus on adding semi-natural lands rich in floral resources, such as grasslands, and areas with high-quality nesting habitat, such as wooded area, to encourage success of both native and honey bees.