Posts Tagged: Neal Williams
Talk about a good insurance policy.
Researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) just published an article in the Journal of Applied Ecology that indicates that blueberry growers who invest in nearby wildflower habitat to attract and support wild bees can increase their crop yields. They're saying that the cost of planting a habitat for wild bees can pay for itself in four years or less.
"Other studies have demonstrated that creating flowering habitat will attract wild bees, and a few have shown that this can increase yields," MSU entomologist and co-author Rufus Isaacs said in a press release. "This is the first paper that demonstrates an economic advantage. This gives us a strong argument to present to farmers that this method works, and it puts money back in their pockets."
"This is HUGE news," said pollination ecologist Neal Williams, associate professor of entomology at UC Davis, who was not involved in the study. "This is the first study to quantify pollination benefit as a result of habitat planting adjacent crops. It also works through the economics of the implementation of the the habitat and accrued economic and yield benefit over time. Fantastic stuff."
This is right up Willilams' alley, er, hedge row. He and his colleagues are exploring the role of wild native bees, honey bees and other managed species as crop pollinators and the effects of landscape composition and local habitat quality on their persistence. His research on pollination spans the disciplines of conservation biology, behavioral ecology and evolution. One of his primary research foci is on sustainable pollination strategies for agriculture. This work is critical given ongoing pressures facing managed honey bees and reported declines in important native pollinators such as bumble bees.
Williams' research has taken him from eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey to California's Central Valley. "A continuing goal is to provide practical information that can be used to improve the long-term stability of pollination for agriculture in California, as well as promote pollinator conservation and management," Williams says. In addition to work in agriculture, he is also studying how habitat restoration affects pollinator communities and pollination.
Earlier California studies, involving Clare Kremen of UC Berkeley, Neal Williams and other colleagues, showed that wild bees make honey bees better pollinators; that is, the presence of wild bees makes the honey bees work harder.
Regarding the MSU study, the research team planted surrounding bueberry fields with a mix of 15 native perennial wildflowers, hoping to increase the wild bee population and thus improve pollination in the blueberry fields.
And yes, that's exactly what happened.
"In the first two years as the plantings established, we found little to no increase in the number of wild bees," Isaacs related in the press release "After that, though, the number of wild bees was twice as high as those found in our control fields that had no habitat improvements."
To quote from the press release: "Once the wild bees were more abundant, more flowers turned into blueberries, and the blueberries had more seeds and were larger. Based on the results, a two-acre field planted with wildflowers adjacent to a 10-acre field of blueberries boosted yields by 10-20 percent. This translated into more revenue from the field, which can recoup the money from planting wildflowers."
Isaacs was quick to point out that the researchers are not suggesting that growers cease using honey bees for pollination services. But with 420 species of wild bees in Michigan alone, he says, it makes sense to attract the "free" wild bees. Indeed, it does.
This study could have major implications for not only research in California, but nationwide.
An Osmia (family Megachilidae) pollinating a flower. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The blue orchard bee, Osmia lignaria, is one of the bees that Neal Williams' lab is studying. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of Osmia lignaria on phacelia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
So said Senior Extension Associate Maryann Frazier of Penn State when she addressed the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's seminar last Wednesday, April 2 in Briggs Hall.
Frazier, on a trip to California to discuss her research with the Marin County Beekeepers, took time out to travel to the UC Davis campus at the invitation of Master Beekeeper/writer Mea McNeil of the Marin County Beekeepers and associate professor Neal Williams and assistant professor Brian Johnson of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Frazier, a 25-year extension specialist, expressed concern about the pesticide loads that bees are carrying, as well as the declining population of bees and other pollinators.
Beekeepers, she said, used to be much more concerned about colony collapse disorder (CCD), that mysterious phenomenon characterized by adult honey bees abandoning the hive, leaving the queen bee, brood and food stores behind. CCD surfaced in the winter of 2006, but today, when beekeepers report their winter losses, "they're not blaming CCD any more," she said.
Frazier listed the prime suspects of troubled bees as poor nutrition, mites, genetics, stress, pesticides, nosema and viruses. "Varroa mites are a huge issue," Frazier said.
Turning to pesticides, she said a 2007-2010 U.S. analysis of some 1000 samples (wax, bees and flowers) showed "an astonishing average of six pesticides per sample and up to 31 different pesticides per sample." The analysis, done by U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service Lab (USDA/AMS) screened for 171 pesticides at parts per billion. The samples involved a CCD study, apple orchard study, migratory study and submissions from individual beekeepers.
Frazier compared the interaction of pesticides in bees to the interaction of medications in humans. When you go to the doctor, you'll be asked the names of the medications you're taking, she said. The "interaction" situation is similar to what's happening with the honey bees.
In a bee colony, lethal exposures to pesticides are easy to see, Frazier noted. "You'll see dead bees, bees spinning on their backs and bees regurgitating." But the sub-lethal effects can mean "reduced longevity, reduced memory and learning, reduced immune function and poor orientation."
Marin County Beekeepers recently undertook a similar study of pesticide analysis, raising $12,000 to do so ($300 per sample). "Marin is very mindful of pesticides, probably more than any other place," Frazier said. McNeil agreed. The results are pending publication.
"If we truly want to protect our pollinators," Frazier concluded, "three things need to be addressed or changed:
- Beekeeper reliance on chemicals and drugs to manage mites and diseases
- Pest control practices, particularly agricultural land
- The approach of more regulatory agences assessing risk and protecting the environment"
As the seminar participants left Briggs Hall, many could be heard discussing the take-home message: "average of six pesticides per sample, up to 31 pesticides per sample."
A queen bee and her colony at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Maryann Frazier with the list of 171 pesticides screened in the U.S. survey. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"Go native" with native bees, that is.
A bee condo is a block of wood drilled with specially sized holes for nesting sites. Bees lay their eggs, provision the nests, and then plug the holes. Months later, the offspring will emerge.
In our backyard, we provide bee condos for BOBs (short for blue orchard bee) and leafcutter bees.
In the summer it's fun watching the leafcutter bees snip leaves from our shrubbery and carry them back to their bee condo. It's easy to tell the nesting sites apart: BOB holes are larger and plugged with mud, while the leafcutter bee holes are smaller and plugged with leaves.
Osmia lignaria, a native species of North America, is sold commercially for use in orchard crop pollination.
If you want to learn how to build them or where to buy them, Thorp has kindly provided a list of native bee nesting site resources on the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility website. You can also purchase them at many beekeeping supply stores. (Also check out the Xerces Society's website information.)
Better yet, if you'd like to learn more about native bees and their needs, be sure to register online for the Pollinator Gardening Workshop on Saturday, March 15 on the UC Davis campus. Hosted by the California Center for Urban Horticulture, it begins at 7:30 a.m. in Room 1001 of Giedt Hall and ends at 2 p.m. with a plant sale at the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery and a tour of the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. For the small fee of $40 you'll receive a continental breakfast and box lunch and return home with an unbee-lievable wealth of knowledge. Speakers will include several honey bee and native bee experts: native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp; pollination ecologist Neal Williams and Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen. See the complete list on the website.
You'll be hearing from Robbin, Neal and Eric, but you'll be thinking about BOB.
Leafcutting bees heading home to their condo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, shows Danielle Wishon of the California Department of Food and Agriculture a bee condo. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Blue orchard bees on display at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up of bee nesting sites shown March 2 at the Bohart Museum of Entomology. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The event, hosted by the California Center for Urban Horticulture (CCHU), based at UC Davis, will take place at Giedt Hall, UC Davis campus, with a side trip to the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Garden, just west of the campus, on Bee Biology Road.
Registration is underway at on the CCHU website.
CCHU program manager Anne Schellman says that this will be an informative workshop where participants will learn:
- How to identify common bee pollinators
- How to make a landscape pollinator-friendly
- Which plants pollinators prefer
- The latest research about honey bee health and pollinator habitat
- How UC Davis helps honey bees at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Garden
Honey bee and native pollinator specialists with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology will be among the speakers.
Please pick up materials and enjoy coffee and a light breakfast
Dave Fujino, director of the California Center for Urban Horticulture, UC Davis
Edwin Lewis, professor and vice chair of the Department of Entomology and Nematology, UC Davis
8 to 8:40
The Buzz about Bees: Attracting and Observing Bees in Your Garden
Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor, Department of Entomology and Nematology, UC Davis
Habitat Enhancements to Support Bees: Agriculture to Urban Research
Pollination ecologist Neal Williams, associate professor, Department of Entomology and Nematology, UC Davis
Honey Bee Health: Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, Department of Entomology and Nematology, UC Davis
Plants for Pollinators: Ellen Zagory, director of horticulture, UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden, UC Davis
Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven Garden Update: What's New in the Garden?
Christine Casey, manager of Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, Department of Entomology and Nematology, UC Davis
11:30 Pick up box lunch
Open house at Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, Bee Biology Road (It's located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility)
Questions and answers with Robbin Thorp and Christine Casey
1 to 2
Special plant sale for Pollinator Workshop attendees
Arboretum Teaching Nursery, Garrod Drive
This is a great opportunity to learn more about the pollinators we see in our garden, ranging from honey bees and bumble bees to long-horned bees and metallic green sweat bees--and what to plant to attract them. Three of the speakers (Eric Mussen, Neal Williams and Robbin Thorp) were members of the "UC Davis Bee Team" that won the outstanding team award last year from the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America. The other team members were assistant professor Brian Johnson and professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology.
See website for registration and more information, or contact Anne Schellman at email@example.com.
Honey bee foraging on flowering quince. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
What are the indirect effects of parasites and pesticides on pollination service?
Ecologist Sandra Gillespie, a postdoctoral researcher in the Neal Williams lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will present the results of her research at a departmental seminar from 12:10 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 16 in 122 Briggs Hall. It will be recorded for later posting on UCTV.
“Whether in natural or agro-ecosystems, researchers are increasingly viewing positive interactions such as pollination in a broader context rather than as isolated pair-wise interactions,” Gillespie says. “In natural ecosystems, my research has explored how incidence of parasites and diseases of native bumble bees may affect pollination of plants in old-field meadows in Massachusetts. High incidence of certain parasites reduced pollination of bumble bee-dependent wild plants, suggesting that parasitism may impact pollination service to native plants and crops.”
“In a more applied context, I examined the effects of field management decisions, including pesticide use and irrigation practices, on pollination service in onion seed production in California. High insecticide use, even pre-bloom, as well as reduced irrigation negatively impact pollinator visitation in this crop, highlighting the importance of considering the indirect effects of management on the pollination process in agro-ecosystems.”
Gillespie delivered a similar presentation at 2012 meeting of the Pacific Branch of the Entomological Society of America.
Gillespie, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis since 2011, received her bachelor’s degree in biology from Simon Fraser University, Canada, and her doctorate in both entomology and organismic and evolutionary biology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
As a postdoc in the Williams lab, Gillespie is examining the mechanisms behind yield declines in hybrid onion seed production in California, with the goal of developing sustainable recommendations for producers.
Gillespie will be leaving UC Davis the first week of December; she has accepted a position at Simon Fraser University (starting Jan. 1) to work as a postdoc with Elizabeth Elle in the biology department. "I'll be studying pollinator-mediated selection in a community and landscape context," she said.
Her research on “Factors Affecting Parasite Prevalence among Wild Bumble Bees,” was published in Ecology Entomology, 2010. She has also published her work in the American Journal of Botany (“Variation in the Timing of Autonomous Selfing among Populations that Differ in Flower Size, Time to Reproductive Maturity, and Climate,” 2010) and Annals of the Entomological Society of America (“Laboratory Rearing of North American Tiger Beetles (Coleoptera, Carabidae: Cicindelinae,” 2011).
Pending publication in the Journal of Economic Entomology: “Insecticide Use in Hybrid Onion Seed Production Affects Pre- and Post-Pollination Processes,” the work of Gillespie, Neal Williams, Rachael Long and Nicola Seitz.
UC Davis ecologist Sandra Gillespie answers a question at a recent pollination workshop in Woodland. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee pollinating an onion umbel. (Photo by Sandra Gillespie)