- Animals: bees
- Crop Production: pollinator habitat
As much as 30 percent of the American diet is a direct result of animal pollination, the majority of which is provided by bees. This bee pollination equates to more than $18 billion worth of crops annually in the United States alone. Despite their significant economic value, bees — both honey bees and native bees — are facing severe population pressures from multiple factors including habitat loss, pathogens, pesticides, climate change, and increase monoculture. These pressures can lead to severe population declines. Recently, providing pollinators with augmented habitat as a conservation method has become an increasingly popular trend. Much of this effort has been centered around adding habitat into the agricultural landscape to promote floral resources for beneficial arthropods and pollinators. Building on this trend, the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) has recently implemented an initiative called “Protecting NC Pollinators,” that mandates the planting of pollinator habitat at all Experimental Agricultural Research Stations across the state — which is the focus of this study. Despite the increasing popularity of augmented habitat, there are still many gaps in the empirical research documenting the impact of this tool. This study fills this gap by documenting the bee communities found on NCDA&CS research stations across the state — resulting in the most detailed survey of native bees in the state to date — measuring the pathogen ecology of the bee communities in this habitat to ensure that pollinator health is supported, and finally, measuring the impact habitat has on crop output.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Screen bee samples for pathogens;
- Document pollinator networks at the plots and a nearby crop;
- Measure the impact of the plots on crop output.