New bulletin helps farmers fight honeybee problems

Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included.    

One quarter of the United States honeybee population has been lost to colony collapse disorder (CCD), and interest is growing in alternative pollinators such as native bees. A new Michigan State University Extension bulletin is available for farmers and other landowners interested in exploring practices to enhance native pollinators on their property.

“Conserving Native Bees on Farmland” (E-2985) provides straightforward information about creating attractive environments for native bees. The bulletin teaches the reader about various native bee species and gives recommendations about nesting sites and food resources.

Honeybees are the most economically important pollinator and are used widely for pollinating crops, but they are also susceptible to diseases and parasites. Colony collapse disorder is a mysterious condition that has appeared recently in which adult honeybees abandon their hives for what appears to be no reason at all.

“With honeybee health problems, focusing on native bees is a strategy to reduce the risks of sole dependence on honeybees,” said Rufus Isaacs, associate professor of entomology. “Our goal is to help growers make sure they can pollinate their crops and have reliable production on their farms every year.”

Entomology graduate student Julianna Tuell did native bee research with 13 growers in conventional blueberry farms and semi-abandoned blueberry fields. She studied a variety of native bees, their habitat needs and feeding preferences. The bulletin compiles her research into recommendations for farmers, gardeners and anyone growing crops that rely on bees for pollination.

“The native bees contribute to pollination, but they won’t replace honeybees,” Tuell said. “The good news is that native bees do not seem to be affected by colony collapse disorder, perhaps because they do not live in large colonies.”

“Conserving Native Bees on Farmland” (E-2985) can be purchased through the MSU Bulletin Office for $2 per copy by calling 517-353-6740 or visiting http://www.emdc.msue.msu.edu/. Discounts are available if the bulletin is purchased for use with MSU Extension programming. You can also print and view a copy through the pdf file at: http://www.nativeplants.msu.edu/pdf/E2973.pdf

Project GREEEN (Generating Research and Extension to meet Economic and Environmental Needs) funded the entomology research and also supported another new bulletin describing the relationships between native plants and beneficial insects. “Attracting Beneficial Insects with Native Flowering Plants” (E-2973) was written by Isaacs and Tuell, along with MSU entomology researchers Douglas Landis and Anna Fiedler.

Visit http://www.nativeplants.msu.edu for more information on MSU native plant and beneficial insect research. A companion site helps identify natural enemies in crops.

(This news release provided by one of the project funders, Project GREEEN, a cooperative effort between plant-based commodities and businesses together with the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station, MSU Extension and the Michigan Department of Agriculture. To learn more about Michigan’s plant agriculture initiative at MSU, visit: http://www.greeen.msu.edu/ )

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