AGRIBUSINESS: Researcher Says Bee Habitats Have Multiple Benefits for Growers

According to USDA, 30% of honey bee colonies in the United States die every year. That’s due in part to both normal over-wintering losses and the more complex problems that result in colony collapse disorder.

Iowa State University Entomologist Dr. Matt O’Neal researches pollinator habitats. While most of the major benefits from pollinators are felt by fruit or vegetable growers, O’Neal says research into native bees has revealed an interesting fact.
“We observed upwards of 25 species of bees in corn and soybean fields,” O’Neal says. “I don’t know what they’re doing, I’m not sure anybody does. It would be really interesting to know what those species are doing and which ones are most beneficial to soybean pollination…”
O’Neal says in some instances, soybean fields have seen a 10%-20% yield increase if exposed to pollinators, even though the plants are bred to self-fertilize.

For fruit and vegetable growers, having native perennial plants near a field has a few positive effects: promoting biodiversity, bringing in natural enemies like ladybird beetles to keep pest populations in check, and reducing soil erosion and nutrient loss. O’Neal’s research into whether or not adjacent pollinator habitats can increase fruit and vegetable yields is ongoing.

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