- Fruits: apples
- Animals: bees
- Crop Production: pollination, pollinator habitat
Several species of wild bees and other insects provide important ecosystem service in commercially cultivated pollinator dependent high-value crops. In recent past, populations of managed honey bees have been declining due to multiple interactive factors, and as a result, the cost of renting honey bee hives has increased multiple times. In many high-value crops like apples, growers rent bee hives during bloom, and also rely on wild bee populations that are established in their farm landscape. Therefore, conservation and management of these wild and native bee species in commercial farms is crucial. With this on-farm study, we aim to quantify ecosystem services of wild bees and other beneficial insects that help in suppressing crop pest populations by biological control. Following the establishment of diverse native floral resource plots between rows of apple trees in NW Arkansas apple orchards, we will assess their effectiveness at attracting and retaining diverse assemblages of these beneficial insects. Specifically, we will measure the abundance and diversity of wild bees and syrphid flies over two seasons and their role in enhancing crop yield. We will also measure community of other beneficial insects and their role in biocontrol. In light of pollinator declines, conserving habitat and supporting populations of wild pollinators is an increasing concern among growers of pollinator-dependent crops. This project would be among the first to assess the effectiveness of providing these newly designed with-in orchard swaths of pollinator habitats and findings of this study would be helpful to fruit growers’ community in this region.
Project objectives from proposal:
The main goal of this project is to assess the utility of native floral plantings (when established between tree-rows) for conservation and management of wild bees and other beneficial insects in tree fruit orchards. Studies will be conducted with the following objectives:
- To establish native floral resource planting within tree- rows in apple orchards and to assess their utility for wild bees and beneficial insect conservation.
- To determine the wild bee and beneficial insect communities in floral plantings and apple orchards and quantify their ecosystem services.
- To develop a field guide for pollinator and other beneficial insect management in apple orchards.