Great Lakes Pollinator Health Project
I'm currently managing a USDA-NIFA funded project investigating pollinator health in Michigan. This project came about because of increasing concern over documented declines in honey bees, wild bees, and other pollinators. These declines haven't been restricted to the Great Lakes region, with declines in populations reported around the world. But the Great Lakes region has been of specific concern due to loss of natural habitat from agricultural intensification, and the importance of bees for pollination services.
Below, Koh and colleagues document the current status of wild bees across the country. The midwest shows to be particularly bad for wild bee abundance.
Because of these concerns, our project aims to document historic patterns of pollinators in Michigan, and compare it to current diversity and abundance measurements. This allows us to determine if the region has always been relatively bad for wild bees, or if this is a recent phenomenon. It also sets a baseline for documenting improvements in the pollinator community going forward - a vital step in evaluating conservation programs.
We are also measuring the health of managed bees - honey bees and bumble bees. Managed bees are an irreplaceable part of our agricultural system, with a particularly important role in Michigan. Here, managed bees are used for specialty crops such as blueberry, cherry, and cucumber. Michigan agriculture adds $91.4 billion to the state's annual economy, and MI agriculture is the second most diverse in the country (only topped by California). But managed bees have been facing recent health problems due to disease, nutrition, and pesticide exposure. This project aims to identify these problems within the Michigan specialty crop industry, and provide recommendations to improve bee health.
Monarch butterflies have also received a lot of attention recently, as their populations have been estimated to drop to ~20% of their historic abundance. Our team is investigating how to create the most beneficial habitats for monarch conservation efforts in Michigan. With restored monarch habitat, we may be able to restore the population.
Finally, the goals of this project are to provide recommendations to agricultural and conservation stakeholders for how to improve pollinator habitat and health.