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Pollinators are crucial contributors to our environment and society by enhancing plant diversity in wild lands and providing food for humans in agricultural settings. Some three-fourths of all native plants in the world require pollination by an animal, most often an insect, and most often a native bee.

We are providing science to better understand the status of pollinator species define and address research priorities through

Our projects are coordinated through the Federal Pollinator Health Task Force and the Monarch Butterfly High Level Working Group as identified in the 2014 Presidential Memorandum on Pollinator Health.

Pollinators, most often honey bees, are responsible for one in every three bites of food you take, and increase our nation’s crop values each year by more than 15 billion dollars.

A bee with pollen on it
A bee with pollen on it. Photo by Sam Droege, USGS. (Public domain.)

We will continue to develop our community of practice focused on

  • pollinator research,
  • habitat characteristics,
  • ecosystem services,
  • disease, and
  • pesticides.
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More information about Status and Trends program pollinator research is available from the "Related Science" tab on the top navigation or from the links below.

 

Image: Honey Bees Make Life Sweet
Honey bees live and work in highly collaborative, social colonies with a sole reproducing queen, and they make honey by storing nectar from flowering plants in their hives for use during food scarcities.(Credit: Sarah Scott, USGS. Public domain.)

DNA BARCODING FOR IDENTIFYING NATIVE BEES SPECIES

DNA Barcoding, based on sequence variation between taxa in the cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (COI) of mitochondrial DNA or other loci, has provided an alternative, genetically-based methodology for distinguishing bee specimens. The application of Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) technologies to DNA Barcoding has permitted the sequencing of many more samples at one time, at lower cost, and increased sequencing depth per specimen. 

► Learn more at the DNA barcoding web site

 

ASSESSMENT OF PESTICIDE EXPOSURE TO NATIVE BEES FOUND IN AGRICULTURAL LANDSCAPES

There is a lack of knowledge and understanding of how widespread use of pesticides may affect bees as they move across a diverse agricultural landscape. Studies have shown there are impacts to honey bees due to exposure to pesticides including neonicotinoid insecticides and fungicides, but the effects of these compounds on native pollinators are largely unknown.

Honey bee (Apis mellifera)
Honey bee (Apis mellifera)(Public domain.)

► Visit the pesticide exposure web site

 

ASSESSMENT OF NATIVE POLLINATOR HABITAT AND DIVERSITY IN AGRICULTURAL ECOSYSTEMS

Beginning in 2012, the USGS collaborated with the USDA to assess the effectiveness of pollinator plantings and how alteration of landscapes has affected native pollinators and potentially contributed to their decline. The 2008 Farm Bill recognized contributions made by pollinators and made conservation of pollinator habitat a priority. The USGS is assessing native bee habitat, diversity, and richness in eastern Colorado grasslands and croplands to evaluate the extent to which they provide food and refuge. 

► Learn more at the native pollinator web site

 

NATIVE BEE STATUS AND VULNERABILITY TO CLIMATE CHANGE IN NATIONAL PARKS

Image: Leafcutter Bee at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
This native leafcutter bee, Trachusa zebratum, is a solitary bee species associated with sandy soils where the female builds her own nest to lay her eggs in.(Credit: Krystal Frohnapple, USGS. Public domain.)

Native bees also face challenges due to loss of the plants, from which they gather nectar and pollen, and from introduced diseases and general loss of habitat. Additionally, both Mountain Tops and Dunes contain bees that are only found in these isolated habitats. As regions warm and seas rise these species may be trapped without a place to go.

► Visit the native bee status web site

 

POLLINATOR GERMPLASM AS A GENETIC RESOURCE FOR CONSERVATION

Honey bee colony failure is primarily due to the infestation of mites and agricultural pesticides, including neonicotinoids. USGS researches the impacts these have on honey bee reproductive capabilities.

► Learn more at the pollinator germplasm web site

 

 

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