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New Publication: Conserving Wild Bees in Pennsylvania

Posted: November 19, 2009

Agriculture in Pennsylvania relies upon insects for crop protection and pollination. Unfortunately, many of our crop production practices can have unintended negative consequences for some beneficial organisms and the valuable agroecological services they provide. Given the recent decline in managed honey bee populations, many growers in Pennsylvania are now looking for alternative ways to ensure pollination of their crops. One way that this can be accomplished is by providing or improving habitat for wild bees.
The new Agroecology in Practice factsheet "Conserving Wild Bees in Pennsylvania."

The new Agroecology in Practice factsheet "Conserving Wild Bees in Pennsylvania."

Wild bees, which include native and naturalized bees, already provide some of the pollination services for a number of fruit and vegetable crops in Pennsylvania. Crops pollinated by wild bees in Pennsylvania range from apples, pears, and nuts, to strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, and squash. Therefore, conserving or increasing wild bee populations in the state is an essential step for sustaining agricultural production in Pennsylvania.

What are some strategies for conserving wild bees in Pennsylvania? Postdoctoral research associate Tara P. Gareau, ecology graduate student Nelson DeBarros, and professsors Mary Barbercheck and Dave Mortensen have developed a beautiful and informative publication titled “Conserving Wild Bees in Pennsylvania” that aims to provide growers and the general public with the information necessary to help conserve these beneficial insects. The publication features the stunning photography of Nelson DeBarros. The bulk of the information provided within the publication covers the use of native plants to conserve bee populations.

Gareau and her colleagues point out that native plants are well adapted to the local weather and soil conditions, and have co-evolved with the insect communities in the region, making them ideal for landscaping around the garden or farm. Some of the information provided within the publication includes general suggestions for ways to enhance wild bees, which include conserving natural habitats, planting flowers, providing access to water, preserving or building nesting sites, and reducing bee exposure to pesticides.

A special feature of the publication is that it opens up to become an attractive and informative poster suitable for wall hanging. When opened, the poster shows the shapes and sizes of different wild bees, a chart that shows the flowering and growth periods of twenty native plant species, and full-color photographs and descriptions of the seven groups of wild bees that are most important to agriculture in Pennsylvania.

The publication is the first in a series of outreach products to be featured in Penn State’s new Agroecology in Practice series.  The publication can be downloaded free of charge. For more information, please contact Tara P. Gareau at tlp19@psu.edu.