We have put together a special page for pollinator specific resources! This page points farmers, other scientists, and anyone interested in pollinator protection to a collection of resources available both online, and in text that can help YOU protect our bees!
Gratton lab member Rachel Mallinger has created an online WI Wild Bee Guide for native bee species commonly found in the spring and early summer. The guide allows users to identify bee species using picture matching or a dichotomous key.
The guide’s purpose is two-fold: allow people to identify bees themselves and act as a citizen-science tool to collect more data about bee abundance and distribution statewide. At the end of a successful bee identification, the site prompts you to fill out a quick form where you can submit your identification and the time and place you saw the bee.
The guide’s easy-to-use format is aimed for everyone from farmers to gardeners to students to curious citizens. With over 500 species of bees in the state, the guide helps users narrow in on the bee family or genus, if not to species.
Landowners and farmers may be able to use the identification tool to understand what kind of bees are abundant on their land and use that information to plant nectar and pollen resources and manage habitat in a way beneficial to bees.
There has been a lot of buzz in the lab about two papers examining the relationships between habitat diversity (at local and landscape scales) and arthropod diversity.
The first paper (Bennett and Gratton 2013) examines the relationships between floral diversity and the diversity of beneficial arthropods which includes insect pollinators and predators. Ashley and Claudio found that as plant diversity increases, the number of beneficial arthropod species increases as well. They also found that as plant diversity increases, the variability in arthropod community decreases meaning that the composition of beneficial arthropods in highly diverse plant communities are more similar to each other than low diversity plant communities. These results have implications for restoration and habitat management where careful selection of plants may be needed to increase the richness of beneficial arthropods in more predictable ways.
The second paper (Kennedy et al 2013) is a global study examining the relative effects of landscape composition (e.g. nesting and floral diversity), landscape configuration (e.g. habitat connectivity and shape), and local factors (e.g. farm management and plant diversity) on native bee communities in 39 crop systems (including Hannah Gaines’ cranberry system!). The authors found that native bee abundance and richness were positively affected by the diversity of resources in the local habitat and surrounding landscape features. These results suggest that farms surrounded by a high diversity of habitats may offset any potential negative effects of low diversity agriculture (i.e. monocultures) for native bee communities. The following is a research brief put out by UC Berkley (http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2013/03/12/crop-diversity-boosts-bees/)
Way to go Ashley, Hannah and Claudio!
Posted by Tania Kim
We have had some extreme weather in Wisconsin this spring. Throughout the Northeast and Midwest, an unusually long warm spell propelled us into spring in early-mid March. While many of us were hoping that the warm weather would last, we were not so fortunate. Multiple nights of hard frost and daytime temps barely and rarely hitting 60 characterized the month of April. People have been asking us, “What are the effects of this crazy weather for insects and for crops?” I have been out doing field work throughout the past month, visiting apple orchards in southern Wisconsin where I study wild bees, and I have observed the potential effects of the weather on pollinators and pollination. Two phenomena related to the weather have occurred this spring, both potentially reducing this season’s fruit crop. In a typical year, fruit trees don’t bloom till late April or early May, after the risk of frost has largely passed. This year, however, with warm temperatures, fruit trees bloomed in early April. Frost then hit many orchards when some trees were in full bloom. While flower buds can better withstand freezing temperatures before they are fully open, hard frost during bloom will destroy the flower and prevent fruit formation. For the late bloomers that escaped the frost, their reproductive success may not be much improved. Cool weather during bloom means fewer bees active and flying, as bees don’t like high winds or low temperatures. Without bees to pollinate, fruit will not set on these trees either. Compared to 2010 and 2011, I have seen dramatically fewer bees visiting blossoms and in my trap samples. However, all a farmer really needs is one, warm day during bloom to ensure a decent crop. And, some of the hardier bees, like bumble bees, will fly in 50 degree temps. So, while it is still too early to give up hope on an abundant tree fruit crop, I predict that yields will be lower this year due to frost and poor pollination weather.
Posted by Rachel Mallinger