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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Stoneville, Mississippi » Pollinator Health in Southern Crop Ecosystems Research » Research » Research Project #436957

Research Project: Ecological Assessment and Mitigation Strategies to Reduce the Risks of Bees to Stressors in Southern Crop Ecosystems

Location: Pollinator Health in Southern Crop Ecosystems Research

Project Number: 6066-21000-001-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Jun 19, 2019
End Date: Jun 18, 2024

1. Determine pesticide risks to honey bees, both by laboratory assays and field studies in southern cropping systems, including the mode of action of insecticides on bee pollinators and interactions with other pesticides. 2. Develop IPM systems to mitigate the effects of pesticides on bees in these systems. 3. Determine the role of non-crop vegetation in the health of bees in these systems, with a focus on enhancing bee forage habitat. 4. Conduct studies on native bee diversity and biology in southern cropping systems to improve the use of local bee species for pollination of regional crops such as squash and berries. 5. Conduct studies on aerial and ground application of pesticides, examining drift patterns and design equipment and spray adjuvants/dispensers that uses precision application to minimize off-target application onto adjacent non-cropping areas associated with bee habitat.

This new Research Unit will focus on how to improve both native and honey bee health as well as improving natural habitat and minimizing risk to stressors including pesticides and pests in a way that is beneficial to both beekeepers and farmers. The southern United States has traditionally been an area of high row crop agriculture with often high pest pressure than routinely needs synthetic pesticides to keep populations below economic injury levels. These areas are only now seeing the influx of commercial beekeepers that traditionally have been located in other areas of the U.S. Therefore, there is a need to determine ways to increase the health of both managed honey bees as well as native bees that are often needed for pollination services for farmers as well as producing honey for the commercial beekeeper. In addition, there is a lack of knowledge in the overall ecology of non-crop forage (i.e. weeds and native vegetation) to provide suitable habitat for bees as well as determining the risk of certain pesticides on bee health. Finding answers on which strategies increase bee health while being feasible and economical both to the farmer and commercial beekeeper is of the highest priority. Reducing pollinator losses by improving bee health is essential for consistently providing adequate bee populations for crop pollination and ensuring the productivity of U.S. crops that require bee pollination. Identification of particularly damaging chemical pesticides as well as improved application strategies that minimize impact on non-target organisms, such as bees, will inform exposure risks that may be mitigated. Conserving the diversity of non-Apis bees, including bumble bees, alfalfa leafcutter bees, and blue orchard bees, is essential for pollinating certain agricultural crops in addition to hundreds of species of native plants that can be forage for managed honey bees. Progress in NP305 will be accelerated by the information provided by this project. All information generated will be made available through various research publications outlets including outreach using University extension personnel. In addition, the new Unit will collaborate extensively with external partners including landgrant Universities and other federal agencies through outgoing NACAs and interagency agreements.