1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
The overall goal of this project is to ensure the productivity and profitability of insect-pollinated crops by improving the diversity and availability of pollinators for U.S. agriculture. In general terms, we wish to create a toolbox of pollinators. To accomplish this, we seek to understand the diversity and abundance of wild bees in the U.S., and to develop methods for managing a selection of bees as pollinators, including developing effective methods for mass production, ultilization and disease control. To attain our objectives, we plan to focus on specific ecological and agricultural systems. Objective 1: Improve maintenance of wild lands and native bees by (a) enhancing knowledge of native bee pollination, systematics and biodiversity (especially for megachilidae and bombus), (b) developing identification keys that are friendly to non-experts monitoring native bees, and (c) restoring wild lands by identifying the native pollinator guilds necessary for commercial seed farming of native forbs. • Subobjective 1.1. Expand the taxonomy and systematics of native bees, especially Megachilidae, and develop user-friendly identification keys. • Subobjective 1.2. Document the diversity of native bees in the U.S. • Subobjective 1.3. Develop pollination systems for commercial production of native plant seed needed to restore plant communities on public lands in the Intermountain West. Objective 2: Deliver improved pollination management systems for non-apis bees, particularly the Alfalfa Leafcutting Bee (ALCB) and the alkali bee for alfalfa seed production, bumble bees for greenhouse and field crops, and the Blue Orchard Bee (BOB) for orchard crops. • Subobjective 2.1. Improve sustainability of commercial populations of alfalfa leafcutting bees (ALCB) used for alfalfa seed production. • Subobjective 2.2. Improve methods for maintaining alkali bees for alfalfa seed production. • Subobjective 2.3. Improve management methods of Osmia bees for crop pollination, focusing on managing blue orchard bees to pollinate almonds and Osmia aglaia for bramble fruits • Subobjective 2.4. Develop methods to increase retention of managed solitary bees, particularly the blue orchard bee and alfalfa leafcutting bee. • Subobjective 2.5. Develop management methods for bumble bees native to the U.S. Objective 3: Develop effective and grower-friendly systems for managing diseases in non-apis bees, particularly chalkbrood in the ALCB and BOB. • Subobjective 3.1. Determine chalkbrood epidemiology and diversity (through molecular systematics), and elucidate the genetics of bee immune responses and pathogen resistance. • Subobjective 3.2. Discover effective fungicides and other suppression tools,develop application methods for controlling chalkbrood in the ALCB, and use this as a model for chalkbrood control in BOB. • Subobjective 3.3. Discover the key pathogens and parasites that inhibit mass production of bumble bee colonies.
1b. Approach (from AD-416):
Bees are vital to agriculture. The commercial production of more than 90 crops are accomplished through bee pollination. The honey bee is the best known crop pollinator, but recently, honey beekeepers have been facing a bee health crises, and significant scientific time and effort has been put into identifying the cause. The issue can be viewed as a more general problem, one of a declining availability of pollinators for agriculture. As such, another approach to avoiding the crises can be taken, and that is to evaluate the diversity and use of many species of bees. Our plan addresses three main objectives (1) improve native bee diversity and abundance, and knowledge of their biology, (2) deliver improved pollinator management systems, and (3) develop effective disease management systems for non-Apis bees. Our results will develop an understanding of the causes behind pollinator declines, improve pollinator availability, improve crop quality and production for pollinated crops, and enhance the development of new cropping methods (such as covered row crops). Our overriding goal is to provide agriculture with a tool box of pollinators, however, all bees have their own diseases and parasites and are susceptible to environmental use of pesticides and loss of habitat. Research is needed to identify and control the negative impacts of these factors. In addition, many species of wild bees provide free pollination services for agricultural crops and maintain plant reproduction in our rangelands and other natural and wild areas, and thus it is important to evaluate and protect their populations.
3. Progress Report:
Pollination is vital to U.S. agriculture and maintaining our wildlands. This Project (Logan, UT) evaluated the diversity and abundance of wild bees in the U.S., and improved the management of pollination bees for agriculture. The diversity of bees is vast, but poorly described. Major needs for conserving our nation’s native bees are: 1) a stable classification system that allows users to accurately identify bees to species, 2) an understanding of the distribution and biology of different bees, and 3) digital access to this information. A phylogenetic tree of Osmia (mason bees and orchard bees), was developed using DNA from 86 species, and this tree of life will be used to understand the evolution of different bee nesting traits and the morphological adaptations that support those traits. Efforts to digitize the information associated with each specimen in The National Pollinating Insects Collection continue. The database now includes all the collection information for 1.01 million bee specimens. Bumble bee research on the development of a western species for commercial use continued, with a focus on improving methods for culturing, particularly reducing mortality in the rearing process. Assessments of the conservation status of North American bumble bees also continued. Bumble bee pathology studies were initiated to understand pathogen prevalence and control in rearing facilities. Alfalfa leafcutting bees are used extensively for alfalfa pollination, so research efforts continued with regard to improving production and disease control for this bee. Sometimes, alfalfa leafcutting bees produce two generations a year, instead of the expected one. This phenomenon was found to increase the spread of chalkbrood, a serious disease of this bee. Studies were continued to determine what causes for second generation development. Nesting females of the alkali bee, a valuable alfalfa pollinator, were found to require pollen at the end of the day for continued egg production, a fact not previously known. This means that for bees to reproduce well, flower resources must be available all day, not just in the morning. It is common for growers to apply such a large number of bees to their fields that all the nectar and pollen are used up by early afternoon, a practice that we now know reduces the ability of females to obtain the nutrients they need to continue laying eggs. Efforts to determine the sublethal effects of some fungicides and insecticides continued, including studies to determine effects on bee behavior and immune systems. Research continued to develop methods for using the blue orchard bee for pollination of orchard crops, such as almonds. Bees use chemical cues to identify good nesting locations, and the composition of these cues was identified and then used to develop a nest attractant that was then successfully field tested. Tests were also conducted to identify the optimal arrangements for deploying nesting boxes and releasing bees in orchards. Research continued with regard to native bees and their use in rehabilitating rangelands after disasters, such as wildfires and overgrazing.
Ayala, R., Griswold, T.L. 2012. Two new species of the bee genus Peponapis, with a key to the North and Central American species (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Eucerini). Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad. 83(2): 396-406.