Ge Zhang, Iowa State University, Department of Entomology
Ph.D. defense seminar.
Abstract. Managed honey bee colonies have experienced high annual losses and historical declines in the US and Europe in part due to declines in floral resources from increased crop production. Integrating prairie strips into cropland is gaining traction as a conservation approach to enhance biodiversity while providing benefits to farmers. My goal was to determine if prairie strips enhanced honey bee nutritional and colony health. I conducted a multi-year, replicated, longitudinal study of experimental apiaries placed in fields with and without prairie strips. Multiple indicators of bee health were monitored throughout the season, including quantity and diversity of pollen collected by honey bees, individual bee nutritional state (nurse bee lipid content), and colony health (weight and population growth). Colonies benefited from prairie strips in several ways. Prairie strips significantly enhanced colony health, as evidenced by higher average colony weight and larger worker-bee populations. This response may be due to the quality and availability of pollen, as bee colonies that were kept in prairie strips used several plant species found in prairie strips and collected more pollen. These data suggest that prairie strips could be a solution to support conservation goals within farmland while simultaneously improving honey bee colony health.