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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Stoneville, Mississippi » Pollinator Health in Southern Crop Ecosystems Research » Research » Research Project #437283

Research Project: Strategies to Reduce Risk of Bees to Various Stressors in the Mississippi Delta

Location: Pollinator Health in Southern Crop Ecosystems Research

Project Number: 6066-21000-001-003-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 2, 2019
End Date: Aug 31, 2024

(1) To investigate, conduct research, provide outreach/extension, and solve problems related to improving 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 agricultural producers located in the Mississippi Delta. (2) Modeling efforts to understand how the landscape affects managed pollinators will be initiated. An Extension education program will be established that targets row crop producers about improving pollinator habitat and pollinator friendly agronomic practices. Efforts to understand forestry practices and the impacts on native pollinators will also be investigated.

(1) The Mississippi Delta region in the southern United States has traditionally been an area of intense row crop agriculture with high pest pressure that 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. The crops grown in the region do not require pollination from bees, but commercial beekeepers often bring colonies to the region at specific times during the year to improve colony health. These colonies are needed for pollination services for farmers in other areas of the U.S., as well as producing honey for the commercial beekeeper. In addition, there is a lack of knowledge about the overall ecology of non-crop forage (i.e. weeds and native vegetation) to provide suitable foraging 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 and application procedures 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. (2) SEE BELOW