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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Logan, Utah » Pollinating Insect-Biology, Management, Systematics Research » Research » Research Project #438637

Research Project: Ensuring healthy pollinators for crop production: Defining forage needs of bees, through examination of interactions of bee species and pollen use

Location: Pollinating Insect-Biology, Management, Systematics Research

Project Number: 2080-21000-019-025-T
Project Type: Trust Fund Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jun 8, 2020
End Date: Dec 31, 2024

What is the interaction and impact of honey bees, bumble bees and solitary bees on the reproduction and health of each species, when a honey bee apiary is placed into an area? Can floral needs be defined more closely for different bee species? a) Reproduction and growth of species (number of individuals in honey bee colonies, production of gynes for bumble bees, and number of nest cells for solitary bees) b) Health of bees: pathogen prevalence and movement of specific strains of pathogens from one species to another (potential 2-way transfer) via contamination of pollen a. Identify behavioral or morphological symptoms that may be indicative of pathogen infections in the different species of bees. b. Determine if pathogen detection predicts larvae/pupae mortality. c) Competition for pollen among different bee species (choice of floral hosts and amounts of pollen). a. Determine if bees switch pollen choices (flowers being visited) when there are different species competing for pollen in an environment. b. Identify behavioral conflicts observed among the bees. d) Quantify the amount of forage needed for different bee species and try to gain insight into estimating carrying capacity of an environment.

We will carry out experiments both in natural areas that lack pesticide contamination and in cages/screen houses, to ask how honey bee colonies and multiple bee species utilize floral resources and interact. We will ask how the interactions impact the reproductive potential for the different species, establishing native bumble bee colonies and nests of mason bees along with honey bee colonies. The natural area experiments will also include surveys of native endemic bees on the floral resources when honey bees are present and absent, to determine if foraging behavior by the bee species is altered and how bee diversity is impacted over time. In cages and screen houses placed over flowering plants, a greater definition of floral needs is expected; and experiments will give data on how bee density versus floral resources affects the health of bees (pathogen levels and transfer) and their reproduction. For both sets of experiments, the use of floral resources will be determined via molecular identification of pollen and measures of incoming pollen resources. Pathogens will be identified via molecular means and the strains determined via sequencing to ask if pathogens are moving from one species to another and if infection prevalence is increasing or decreasing. Weather conditions and temperature in hives of honey bees and bumble bees will also be determined. These measures will allow for the determination how stress factors and the interactions of different species are related to the overall fitness of the different types of bees. The cage/screen house experiments will allow for a direct measure of carrying capacity for the amount of bloom on the floral hosts for each type of bee. The experiments will also potentially lead to the development of new systems to evaluate host plants for their contributions to bee health. In the future, new pollinator mixes could be evaluated for contributions to bee health. The proposed research is being shared with stakeholders to gain their input on experimental designs and methods. After the conclusion of the experiments, data will be shared with the stakeholders via presentations at meetings and research publications. Data will inform bee keepers, bee and land managers, and stakeholders on the impacts of interactions between honey bee and native bees. Most importantly, the data will help guide decisions on creating new bee pastures and increasing floral resources that can benefit multiple bee species.