Mass Flowering Crops as a Conservation Resource for Wild Pollinators (Hymenoptera: Apoidea)

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Habitat management within agroecosystems can conserve wild pollinator communities by providing nesting and floral resources. However, demarcating arable land for conservation may reduce farm income. A conciliatory habitat management plan thus consists of planting harvestable commodities which offer pollinator resources. This study's goal was to determine whether a single species annual flowering crop could support an abundant and diverse wild pollinator community despite its own uniformity. Local bee communities were sampled using pan traps and hand collection within sixty 10 m2 plots of a sunflower, Helianthus annuus L., field and thirty 10 m2 plots within a meadow three times throughout August, 2012. In total, 2316 bees were collected with Bombus impatiens Cresson constituting 81.5% of sampled bees. Examined collectively, hand collections yielded significantly higher bee abundances in the sunflower field (P < 0.01) across every sampling date. Conversely, an equivalent number of pan-trapped bees occurred among habitats for all sampling dates except week three (P = 0.02) when a greater abundance was observed in the sunflower habitat. Species diversity did not differ (Phand = 0.99, Ppan = 0.97) between habitats although community composition differed with high significance (P < 0.01) indicating that these habitats had comparable diversity levels but attracted particular bee assemblages. Our study identifies sunflower crops as useful pollinator resources, especially for Bombus species, and provides insight into single species annual crops' potential contribution to pollinator conservation.


Todd, K. J., Gardiner, M. M., & Lindquist, E. D. (2016). Mass flowering crops as a conservation resource for wild pollinators(Hymenoptera: Apoidea). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, 89(2), 158–167. https://doi.org/10.2317/0022-8567-89.2.158