Rowe, L., D. Gibson, D. A. Landis, and R. Isaacs. 2021. Wild bees and natural enemies prefer similar flower species and respond to similar plant traits. Basic and Applied Ecology 56:259-269.
Designing wildflower habitats to support beneficial insects providing pollination and pest control services is important for supporting sustainable crop production. It is often desirable to support both groups of insects, making the selection of resource plants for insect conservation programs more challenging. Moreover, the process of selecting resource plants is complicated by the array of possible options in each region, and the need to provide resources over the entire growing season. Identifying traits shared by resource plants that are attractive to both bees and natural enemies can reduce the need to evaluate new plants in each region, by providing a guide for the types of plants expected to be rewarding to these insects. Using insect visitation data collected from replicated common garden plantings of native wildflower and shrub species from the Great Lakes region of the United States, we found a high degree of correlation between the abundance of bees and natural enemies visiting native plant species. These results were used to identify a set of 15 plant species that can provide resources for these insects throughout the summer. Across all tested species, pollen quantity per flower and the week of bloom were positively correlated with some, but not all, taxonomic groupings of beneficial insects. In contrast, floral area was consistently positively associated with visitation of both natural enemies and wild bees. This trait is easy to document and can allow for efficient local testing of potential resource plants, providing a faster path to implementing insect conservation in working landscapes.
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