January 2019 - 17

Muck fields may attract bees to aid pollination
By Dean Peterson
VGN Correspondent
The causes of pollinator decline have
been well-documented, but research at
Ohio State University's Muck Farm near
Willard, Ohio, is trying a new approach of
putting pollinator habitat in strips among
the vegetable crops.
" Can we see an increase in bee
numbers? Can we see an increase in
the types and diversity of wild bees in
areas where muck soils predominate? "
asked Elizabeth Long, assistant professor
in Ohio State University's Entomology
Department. " If we make these resources
available, will they come? Will these fields
be more attractive to bees? "
The concept has some hurdles. Muck
soil is extremely valuable and growers want
every acre in production. There's also the
issue of putting bee habitat in the middle
of intensively-managed crops. " Attracting
bees into this area is risky because
vegetables are intensively managed and lots
of chemicals are used, " Long said.
However, research out of Purdue
University indicates an in-field location
may not be that much more detrimental to
bees than locations outside of the field.
The research centered on neonicotinoid
insecticides which are commonly used
on corn. Neonicotinoid insecticides are
effective against a broad range of pests and
have a low toxicity for vertebrates. The
in the pollen of non-treated plants. "
The presence of large numbers
of pesticides in the pollen occurred
throughout the growing season. " It's
not one or two pesticides this week and
then a couple different ones over the
next few weeks, " Long said. " Bees are
continually exposed to pesticides in their
environment. "
This raises the question as to whether
an intensively-managed vegetable field is
really that much more hostile to bees than
other areas.
Ten species of native perennials are
Kendra Stahl, summer employee at the Muck Farm, is evaluating stand establishment
in this first year of the study. Photo: Dean Peterson
chemical also has a high, water solubility
that makes it systemic in the plant.
This research measured the amount of
pesticides in the pollen honeybees gathered
from three areas - non-agricultural
areas, areas adjacent to corn grown from
neonicotinoid-treated seed, and areas
adjacent to corn grown from untreated seed.
Researchers identified 29 pesticides in
SEEDWAY_Seminis_VGN_Jan2018_Layout 1 11/21/2018 4:44 PM Page 1
the pollen collected over the season in
the non-agricultural areas. There were 31
pesticides identified in the pollen collected
from areas adjacent to corn grown from
untreated seed and 28 pesticides in the
pollen from areas adjacent to corn grown
from neonicotinoid-treated seed.
" Regardless of where their hives were
placed, honeybees were all exposed to very
similar levels of pesticides in the pollen they
were bringing back to the hive, " Long said.
The study also analyzed the collected
pollen to identify the plant of origin.
Researchers found most of the pollen
the bees were bringing back to the hive
came from non-cultivated plants, such
as red clover and ragweed. " There were
all kinds of pollen collected, " Long
said, " but most of it came from noncultivated
plants and that's alarming. It
shows these pesticides are showing up
being studied as pollinator habitat. The
list includes purple prairie clover, dense
blazingstar, butterfly milkweed, wild
bergamot, stiff goldenrod, New England
aster, lanceleaf coreopsis, beardstongue,
rattlesnake master and mountain-mint. The
perennials offer yellow, orange and white
blossoms, and a range of purple blossoms.
" We want to provide pollinators a
variety to choose from and to find out
which flowers the bees are visiting, " Long
said. Another goal is to find out if the
habitat improves fruit set and seed set in
nearby crops.
" The native species are easy to grow, "
Long said. " They can outcompete weeds,
need little care, protect against wind
erosion - which is a big one on muck -
and are aesthetically pretty. We want to
know if this could be a good investment
for growers. " VGN
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