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Pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, are critical for the success of agriculture and must have suitable habitat to thrive. Planting pollinator-friendly plants under and around solar panels has the potential to benefit pollinators and nearby agriculture while contributing to renewable energy production. 

Researchers from the USGS and Cornell University will develop and test a novel method using environmental DNA to survey for pollinator species at solar installations across the U.S. Artificial flowers will be deployed at 12 sites to assess the diversity of bumblebees and other select bee species using eDNA collected from the surface of the flowers. The findings from the artificial flower survey will be compared to whole-flower eDNA collection methods and more conventional surveys using trapping and netting. These eDNA survey methods are a non-invasive, non-lethal way to survey for rare and secretive species and will provide valuable information about the efficacy of pollinator-friendly solar installations. 

A person holding a blue plastic flower in a laboratory
Researchers at the Pacific Northwest Environmental DNA Laboratory designed artificial flowers to attract pollinators. DNA left behind on the flowers can be collected and analyzed as a non-invasive way to survey for pollinator species diversity and abundance.