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Picky pollinators: Native bees are selective about where they live and feed
Date:6/21/2011

INDIANA DUNES NATIONAL LAKESHORE, Ind. Native bees often small, stingless, solitary and unnoticed in the flashier world of stinging honeybees are quite discriminating about where they live, according to U.S. Geological Survey research.

The study found that, overall, composition of a plant community is a weak predictor of the composition of a bee community, which may seem counterintuitive at first, said USGS scientist and study lead Ralph Grundel. This may be because specialized plant-bee interactions, in which a given bee species only pollinates one plant species and that plant species is only pollinated by that bee species are not common. More common is for a plant species to be pollinated by many pollinator species and each pollinator species pollinating many species of plants.

Given this complex network of interaction between plants and their pollinators, it is not surprising that knowing which plants occur in an area does not necessarily allow us to predict which bees will occur in that area, Grundel said.

Unraveling such mysteries surrounding how native bees inhabit and use different habitats is especially essential now -- the National Academy of Sciences has reported that not only is there direct evidence for decline of some pollinator species in North America, but also very little is known about the status and health of most of the world's wild pollinators. Yet without them, the ability of agricultural crops and wild plants to produce food products and seeds is jeopardized.

"The issues facing honeybees, introduced pollinators whose populations are spiraling downward, means that it is even more vital to understand the role of native bees as pollinators and how they divide up and use a landscape," said Grundel.

Many studies have been conducted to determine how a variety of animals birds, mammals, and reptiles, for example use their native landscapes, but few such studies have been undertaken for na
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Contact: Ralph Grundel
rgrundel@usgs.gov
219-926-8336 x422
United States Geological Survey
Source:Eurekalert

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