USGS Pollinator Research and Monitoring

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Detailed Description

The USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, located in the Northern Great Plains state of North Dakota highlights their current and ongoing research on land use and pollinator health.

This part of the country represents critical summer forage habitat for commercial beekeepers and their honey bees. Colonies located here in the summer produce honey and go on to pollinate many crops throughout the country, particularly almonds in the Central Valley of California. Researchers at Northern Prairie are studying how diversity and abundance of pollen (protein) resources differ with land use and result in varying outcomes for honey bee colonies. This research fits within the Presidential Memorandum on pollinators and the subsequent "National Strategy to promote the Health of Honey Bees and other Pollinators" created by the Pollinator Health Task Force. USGS scientists are measuring colony health, productivity, and survival of colonies in varying landscapes, and collaborating with the USDA to evaluate conservation program lands for their contribution to the honey bee diet.

This research will be useful in equipping land managers and policy makers with the best-available science to improve forage and habitat for pollinators.


Date Taken:

Length: 00:05:02

Location Taken: Jamestown, ND, US

Video Credits

Producer and Camera: Kirk Mason
Speakers: Clint Otto, Matthew Smart, Sarah Scott
Location Support: Zac Browning, Bret Adee



[Music] This part of the country, the Northern Great Plains has always been a very important part of the country for wildlife This has always been of critical importance to pollinators Specifically the commercial honeybee keeping industry. So the beekeepers bring their bees here during the summer time to get them fat and happy off of all the forbs we have available to them So then those bees can then go to other parts of the country and provide that pollination service In the US we require both domestic and wild pollinators for pollinating a variety of our agricultural crops Most of our bees here in the Dakotas they go on to pollinate almond crop in California but the list goes on and on pretty much you walk through the produce aisle you can bet that a majority of those fruits and vegetables that are in there are there because some insect provided that pollination service About 1/3 of all the bites of food we take we can attribute that to insect pollinators The Northern Great Plains have historically supported honey production This is also an area of the country now where a lot of corn and beans are being planted on the land replacing some of those bee friendly crops And all of the agricultural practices that come along with those changes and in land use increase agrochemical use, specifically the pesticides We know that that reduces the overall forage availability So what we are doing is basically capturing that change in land use and what's the effect on honey bee colonies as a result We are actually in a cow pasture right now there's a soybean field over there and a little bit of corn but for the most part immediately surrounding this hive yard there is a lot more just grassland Usually we get a lot of pollen out of this yard Honey bees really have an intimate relationship with the environment and the landscape in terms of their colony growth and colony dynamics The pollen is the main resource that is driving colony growth It’s the pollen that is the sole protein source for honey bee colonies It's important to have a diversity of pollen sources because each flower species offers different amino acids We always like to make the analogy that you can eat crackers your whole life and still live but you are not going to be very healthy because you are not getting all the vitamins and minerals that you need same thing with bees So the more flowering species that they have the more protein they are going to get Bees are faced with a whole myriad of diseases and insect pathogens One measurement we need to be apprised of in our health assessment colonies is the varroa infestation rate So that little mite that you see there is responsible for the biggest problem that beekeepers face President Obama recently released a federal strategy for improving pollinator health so they have a couple key goals that they establish Federal Government needs to do a better job in trying to promote pollinator health reducing the number of honey bee colonies that are lost on an annual basis and putting in seven million acres of pollinator habitat either through restoration or landscape enhancement all of our research objectives fit squarely within the presidential memorandum So we are looking at how land use change is effecting colony survival, colony health and then also looking at specific USDA conservation program lands and what kind of contribution they are making to the honey bee diet over the summer The US Department of Agriculture they're one of our main partners in this research The information we collect as scientists, that my team collects we pass that information on to the US department of Agriculture then so we can say whether bees are actually using those USDA conservation lands And if they are not then we will be able to make some recommendations on ways to improve their seed mixes So that they can make better and more informed management decisions [Music] I think in the Northern Great Plains we get overlooked quite a bit just because there are not many people that live out here and yet we see profound changes taking place here So we need to bring all these people to the table to find solutions If we don’t have migratory commercial honey bees our dinner basically looks a lot less colorful and diverse If we can get some great results and get those out there to policy makers I think we have a great opportunity right now to actually affect some change thats going to have some lasting impact on the fate of pollinators. [Music]