My research interests include basic aspects of bumble bee (Bombus) biology and practical aspects of bumble bee culture for pollination. Several species of bumble bees are being screened for traits that contribute to pollination of greenhouse crops: colony size and longevity, defensive behavior, disease susceptibility and the ease of culture. Currently we are rearing colonies from wild-caught queen bumble bees from several western US species (primarily Bombus appositus, Bombus bifariusand Bombus centralis) to evaluate them as potential commercial pollinators. I am also looking at the efficacy of using these species in greenhouses and plastic structures.
I am interested in several areas of bumble bee ecology. One area is the reproductive biology of bees including issues related to polyandry and colony fitness, and dispersal of gynes and males for mating. Currently I am using molecular tools (primarily microsatellite DNA) to evaluate the natural mating frequency of several species of bumble bee queens. Additionally, I am participating in a study of the foraging range of bumble bee colonies and the contribution of wild colonies to pollination of agricultural fields.
Finally, my lab is cooperatively working with researchers at the University of Illinois and the Illinois Natural History Survey to investigate the decline of several North American bee species. My lab is focusing on the range contraction of B. occidentalisin the western US. We are investigating the extent of the range contraction and hope to discover the underlying causes of the recent species decline.