Wildflower plantings increase nesting by soil-nesting bees

Emily May and Rufus Isaacs
Department of Entomology, Michigan State University

Presented at the All Scientist Meeting (2015-04-15 to 2015-04-16 )

The majority of bee species nest in the soil, yet only a handful of studies have attempted to quantify belowground nesting in association with habitat type or substrate characteristics. Because bees are central place foragers, returning to a fixed nest site between foraging bouts, the density and quality of nesting and foraging resources are considered the primary drivers of bee abundance and community structure. Native forb plantings can increase local bee abundance and richness, increasing pollination and yield in adjacent crops. However, it is unclear whether recorded increases in bee abundance and richness result from the concentration of foraging bees on scarce floral resources or from the provision of nesting habitat. We used emergence traps to quantify the abundance of bees nesting in the soil in different habitat types, including wildflower restorations, wooded areas, blueberry crop fields, field margins, and old field habitats. More bees nested in wildflower restorations – particularly mature restorations – than other habitat types, suggesting that these restorations provide nesting habitat in addition to floral resources. Wildflower restorations therefore have the potential to function as source habitats for wild bees in agricultural landscapes.

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