News of the Wild

Bumblebees Seek Biodiverse Blooms

03-11-2013 // Roger Di Silvestro

Native ground-nesting bumblebees, which don’t produce honey but are important pollinators of crops and wild plants, have become increasingly rare, but a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by biologists from the University of Texas–Austin and the University of California–Berkeley has turned up potentially simple solutions to the decline. The research, focused on a native California bumblebee species, found that pavement for roads and other structures was a key factor in the bee’s nesting decline.

The study also found that bees were more attracted to species-rich patches of flowers than to dense patches of a few species. Reducing local use of pavement could improve nesting opportunities for wild bees, the researchers conclude, and increasing the number of species-rich flowering patches in suburban and urban gardens, farms and restored habitats could offer the bees better forage and improve pollination over larger areas. “We are potentially in a pollinator crisis,” says Shalene Jha, lead author and assistant professor of biology at the University of Texas. “Understanding how bees move around the landscape can help us both preserve biodiversity and improve crop yields.” Animal pollination is estimated to be worth more than $200 billion in global crop production.


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