Science & Expert Corner
In a study we published earlier this year, we found that feral honey bees (managed honey bees gone wild) are preferentially removing food resources from the plant species that support the highest diversity and abundance of native pollinators.
Of the 20,000+ bee species on Earth, only about a dozen are used by farmers in commercial agriculture, and these crucial populations of managed bees have been declining at an alarming rate. Several factors, including increased use of pesticides, habitat fragmentation, emerging diseases, and reduced genetic diversity may be responsible for such bee losses. In response to this pollinator crisis, recent conservation efforts have led to stricter regulations on insecticide use. However, other agrochemicals such as herbicides and fungicides that do not directly target insects (such as bees) continue to be applied to in-bloom crops without much scrutiny. Curiously, past research shows that while certain fungicides may pose a lower risk for adult honeybees, they appear to be quite harmful for larval bees. Such findings were somewhat unexpected, and we at the Steffan lab wanted to find out why.
Dr. Jason Graham is the lead researcher developing conservation for the endangered Hawaiian yellow-faced bees in the Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences Department at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. Seven species of Hawaii's yellow-faced bees were placed on the endangered species list in October 2016, these are the first species of bees to be protected and labeled as endangered.
Dr. Jim Cane of the USDA Agricultural Research Service has recently shared with us the following excerpt of his recent work with native bees that exclusively pollinate squash. An article by Science Daily also discusses the findings showing that squash-pollinating bees migrated with the spread of squash agriculture across North America.