Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Pollinating Bees Crucial to Farming Wildflower Seed for U.S. Habitat Restoration

Author
item Cane, James

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: October 1, 2007
Publication Date: August 1, 2008
Citation: Cane, J.H. 2008. Pollinating Bees Crucial to Farming Wildflower Seed for U.S. Habitat Restoration. Book Chapter. Bee Pollination in Agricultural Ecosystems. Oxford University Press

Interpretive Summary: Federal land managers desire seed of Great Basin perennial wildflowers, mixed with grass and shrub seed, for restoration of millions of acres of sagebrush communities degraded by altered wildfire regimes, and exotic grasses and forbs. For 15 candidate wildflower species to be farmed for seed production, all were found to need pollinators, typically bees (Apiformes), for fruit and seed production. Some can be pollinated with currently managed bees (honey bees, alfalfa leaf-cutting bees), but for others, management protocols and starting populations are being developed for suitable species of native Osmia bees.

Technical Abstract: Federal land managers desire seed of Great Basin perennial wildflowers, mixed with grass and shrub seed, to rehabilitate millions of acres of rangelands degraded by altered wildfire regimes, overgrazing and exotic grasses and forbs. At stake are half the nation’s sagebrush communities. Only farmed seed crops can reliably supply the annual need for tons of affordable, clean seed. Fifteen candidate wildflowers are highlighted. Their pollination needs are being experimentally evaluated, their bee faunas regionally surveyed, and progress made toward practical pollinator management options for growers. The wildflowers range from fully self-fertile to largely outcrossing. Only Crepis acuminata sets much seed without pollinators. Bees dominate the pollinator guilds of 14 of these wildflowers. Blooming Lomatium and Sphaeralcea predominantly host ground-nesting oligolectic bees. Honey bees or alfalfa leaf-cutting bees pollinate the two Dalea species. Some guilds include 1-2 bee genera with potentially manageable cavity-nesting species, especially diverse Osmia. Populations of 3 native Osmia bees with pollination promise have been obtained, evaluated, and management protocols developed to accommodate their nesting habits. Two are being increased from hundreds to thousands to pollinate legume seed crops (Hedysarum, Astragalus) slated for production.

Last Modified: 10/25/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page