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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Albany, California » Western Regional Research Center » Invasive Species and Pollinator Health » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #372320

Research Project: Longitudinal Studies to Determine the Causes of Honey Bee Loss

Location: Invasive Species and Pollinator Health

Title: If you build it, they will come – agroecosystem based management practices to support pollinators

item O'BRIEN, COLTON - Colorado State University
item Seshadri, Arathi

Submitted to: Annals of the Entomological Society of America
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/20/2020
Publication Date: 11/3/2020
Citation: O'Brien, C., Seshadri, A.H. 2020. If you build it, they will come – agroecosystem based management practices to support pollinators. Annals of the Entomological Society of America. 114(3):322-328.

Interpretive Summary: Declining insect populations recently made the global headlines but declining bee populations has been in the news for over a decade now. While the reports seem dire, there are efforts to stem the declines and pollinators are perfect examples to demonstrate that the decline can indeed be defied by implementing management practices that promote establishment and survival of insect populations. The 2019 Annual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America hosted a special symposium entitled "Defying the Decline: Applied and Research-Based Conservation Initiatives Making a Difference in Sustaining Insect Biodiversity" and as a part of this symposium we were invited to present on our research supporting the conservation and sustenance of native bee populations. The presentations at the symposium are now being compiled as a Special Issue of the Annals of the Entomological Society of America. Our publication will present a case study demonstrating the efficacy of farm management practices in supporting bee pollinators.

Technical Abstract: Recent reports indicate that global insect populations are showing a declining trend and amongst insects, bees have garnered significant attention. Decades of research on causal factors for bee population declines, indicate that modern, intensive agricultural practices result in extensive loss of natural habitats that provide critical nesting and forage resources for bees. To address these concerns while meeting the growing need for food security, simple but effective farm management practices including reinstating habitat diversity through planting pollinator habitats along field margins and underutilized areas, revegetating retired farmland with wildflowers and planting pollinator-friendly forbs in cover crop mixes, have been recommended. While our earlier studies provide evidence showing that pollinator habitats along field margins and revegetating retired farmland are indeed attractive to bee pollinators, the current study explores the benefits of incorporating pollinator-friendly forbs into cover crop mixes. Our results indicate that cover cropping to support pollinators can be effective, when cover crops reach the flowering stage but the resulting depletion in soil moisture and nutrients could be a concern for growers. Further research to develop a compromise between the growers’ concerns and pollinator needs would be important to make cover-cropping with pollinator-friendly forbs a viable option for sustaining insect diversity. In conclusion, although the reports on global insect declines are dire, our studies show that appropriate farm management practices can help defy this decline.