- Additional Plants: native plants
- Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, hedgerows, wildlife
- Production Systems: holistic management
With honey bees apparently in global decline, alternative pollinators are of greater interest to sustainable farming. Northern Florida is home to at least 140 species of native bees with potential as crop pollinators. Ecosystem services like pollination are known to be provided by solitary bees but there are many unknowns. Which native bees are crop pollinators? Do bee communities vary from farm to farm? Does landscape context influence bee variation? Do pollination services vary across different landscapes? In the proposed study, I will look at bee diversity, pollination choices, and reproduction across urban/suburban, natural and agricultural landscapes to determine the effects of landscape context. As a result of carrying out this project I expect to be able to inform farmers in the rural-urban gradient about how to foster native bees and whether or not their holdings are suitable for improving pollination by native bees. In response to projected growth and urbanization in Florida, my work will also provide insight as to whether pollination as an ecosystem service performed by native bees is better in a natural landscape context than in more developed ones.
Project objectives from proposal:
1) Bee Species Richness: This objective will identify the bees in the rural-urban gradient (RUG) that are potentially the most useful and manageable as pollinators. I will also determine target species for 2-4 below.
2) Bee Reproduction: I will determine the patterns of reproductive success among the bee species that utilize nest boxes (or traps) on sustainably managed farms across the RUG provided that bees cooperate by using artificial nest substrates at my study sites. Nesting sites are an essential and often limiting resource for native bees that nest in cavities (Stubbs et al. 1997). The majority of native bees are ground nesters (Michener 2007), and excavation of nests in not feasible for this study.
3) Bee Foraging Habitat: I will assess the availability and suitability of native bee foraging habitat on the sustainably managed farms across the rural-urban gradient. I will also characterize off-farm foraging habitat along highway road verges.
4) Bee Pollination Choices: I will assess the pollination choices of native bees on sustainably managed farms and in the RUG. It has been suggested that several native bees foraging in diverse ways can serve a larger variety of plant species than honey bees. This objective will assess the pollen choices of bees on farms.
5) Landscape Context Effects : This objective is intended to emphasize the data analysis that will determine the effects of urban/suburban, natural, and agricultural landscape contexts on 1, 2, 3, and 4 (above). My design will allow me to address how 1-4 (above) vary across the RUG.