Bees are a diverse and fascinating group of insects, with approximately 20,000 species worldwide. The vast majority of these species are wild and relatively understudied in comparison to managed bees like the honey bee. Some wild bee species are documented to be declining in abundance, though the conservation status of most species remains unknown. Bees are arguably the largest and most important group of pollinators, and changes in their populations can affect the reproduction of both wild and crop plants. Our research on wild bees focuses on three broad areas, 1. Enhancing our understanding of wild bee ecology, behavior, and life history, 2. Investigating the effects of disturbances on wild bee communities, and 3. Examining interactions between wild bees and the plants that they pollinate. Below are some of our ongoing research projects.
Flowering plant diversity and pollinator community assembly
Bees are intimately linked to their food source, flowering plants. We are interested in exploring how floral resource availability measured at different spatial scales, from patches to landscapes, structures bee communities, and how disturbances to plant communities - including land-use change, plant invasions, or fire - impact bees. Examples of this research include examining how the diversity of land-use types surrounding farms impacts on-farm wild bee communities, and how diverse cover crop mixes can provide floral resources to bees within agricultural landscapes throughout the year.
Effects of pesticides on bees
Pesticides in human-managed habitats can have lethal or sublethal effects on bees, impacting their behavior and fitness. Our research explores bee responses to pesticides at the individual, population, and community level. Projects have investigated the effects of season-long pesticide use on bumble bee colony growth, variation in wild bee responses to pesticides due to their life history traits, and sublethal effects of neonicotinoids on alfalfa leafcutter bee nesting behavior.
Bee foraging preferences and behaviors
Bees make foraging decisions that are influenced by their resource requirements and by floral traits. Our work in this area focuses on elucidating the many factors that affect bee foraging preferences including nectar sugar quantity and composition, pollen quantity and quality, and visual and olfactory cues. Furthermore, we examine how bee foraging behaviors such as fidelity or nectar robbing can influence their role in plant pollination,
Crop pollination ecology
Native wild bees can be important pollinators of crops such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts. We are interested in quantifying the contributions of native wild bees and identifying effective pollinator species. Additionally, we explore the relative effects of wild bee abundance and diversity on pollination rates, and investigate the mechanisms underlying diversity-function relationships. Our work also examines how crop pollination requirements can vary due to both plant genotype and environmental conditions.