Wild bees losing out to crops

Mon. Jan. 4, 2016

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Wild bees losing out to crops

so what will pollinate the crops?

It’s not just honeybees that are in trouble. Wild bees are disappearing from much of the nation’s farmland — especially in Minnesota and much of the Upper Midwest. Researchers at the University of Vermont found that there are places now downright inhospitable to wild bees.

Wild bee
Wild bee

Professor Taylor Ricketts says farmers are going to be looking at inconsistent yields.  Wild bees provide $3 billion worth of pollination services to the nation’s food system. Some crops, like almonds, blueberries and other fruits, are totally reliant on either domesticated honeybees that are trucked at a high cost, or wild insects that live around the fields.


The researchers found that 39 percent of the croplands that need insects face a threatening mismatch between rising demand for pollination and a dwindling supply of wild bees.  Hot spots in trouble are central California, northwest Washington, Michigan and a vast stretch from western Minnesota through Iowa and the Dakotas. Minnesota alone accounted for nearly 13 percent of the overall decline.  Ricketts said that the decline is driven by the conversion of natural land into intensely managed row crops.

Corn rows
Corn rows
natural prairie
natural prairie

“Most people can think of one or two types of bee, but there are 4,000 species in the U.S. alone,” notes Ricketts. “Wild bees are a precious natural resource we should celebrate and protect. If managed with care, they can help us continue to produce billions of dollars in agricultural income and a wonderful diversity of nutritious food.”

Earlier this year the White House released a pollinator protection plan that calls for bringing back 7 million acres of land as pollinator habitat.

But what does the average person do?  Plant pollinators in your home landscape!

The Metropolitan Field Guide planting pollinators

Pollinator habitat

wild bee 1


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