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 and bee 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. Our work in this area also includes investigating the best plants for different generalist and specialist bees in rural and urban environments. Our research aims to inform bee conservation efforts including on-farm pollinator plantings, habitat restoration, or pollinator gardens that enhance floral resources for bees.
Effects of disturbance on bee diversity and community composition
Research projects in this field explore pollinator community responses to disturbances including fire, plant invasions, land-use change, and pesticides. We study responses at the behavioral, population, and community level, and investigate how responses vary with pollinator life-history traits, disturbance intensity, or landscape context.
Bees make foraging decisions that are influenced by their resource requirements and by plant characteristics. Our work in this area focuses on elucidating the floral traits that mediate plant-pollinator interactions including the quantity and quality of floral rewards, and visual and olfactory cues. We are furthermore interested in how variation in floral traits across plant genotypes and environments affects bee behavior. Additional research projects include examining 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 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.