Michigan project looks to boost wild pollinators

03/04/2013 10:41:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

Fruit set was considerably lower in farm sites with few wild insects visiting blooms, according to a recent international study that examined the importance of wild pollinators for fruit and vegetable production.

The study involved 50 researchers with information from 20 countries, 600 fields and 41 crops, according to a news release.

The study, led by Lucas Garibaldi, from the National University in Río Negro, Argentina, was published in Science Express, Feb. 28.

The researchers found that wild bees and other pollinators were twice as effective in pollination than commercial honeybees.

Among the researchers was Rufus Isaacs, a Michigan State University entomologist who is heading a new, nationwide integrated crop pollination project.

The project is funded by a $1.6 million grant from the Specialty Crops Research Initiative.

Although wild bees do visit Michigan orchards and fields, the bulk of pollination is done by commercial honeybees rented by beekeepers during the bloom season.

The research project's goal is to enhance wild bee populations through simple practices that growers can implement on their farms.

Isaacs, along with colleagues Larry Gut and Nikki Rothwell, will test integrated pollination approaches at blueberry, apple and cherry farms.

They will compare fields that were managed usiing commercial honeybees alone, adding bumble bees or blue orchard bees, or adding specialized habitat for wild bees.



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