The buzz about native bees: The multiple interacting factors that contribute to recent native bee declines

April 22, 2021


Contact: Ana Heck

Photo of a bumble bee on a flower.

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Many of the key factors, including habitat loss, pesticide use, climate change, and increased spread of infectious diseases, that have led to recent honey bee losses are also contributing to broad declines in native bee biodiversity and population sizes. Native bees are surprisingly important pollinators of native plants and crops, and as a group they represent an incredible amount of diversity in the essential roles they play in our ecosystems. However, these interacting factors that contribute to bee declines can sometimes have variable impacts on specific native bee species depending on their flower specialization, degree of sociality, and other key ecological traits. Yet there is hope on the horizon with a recent study showing that greater pollinator biodiversity can help to reduce the prevalence of several bee viruses in honey bees and native bees -- an exciting finding that suggests that pollinator conservation can also benefit bee health. 

Michelle Fearon studied biology at the University of California, Davis before pursuing a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan, which she completed in May 2020. Her research focuses on how pollinator communities and their surrounding environment may impact the prevalence of three important bee viruses that contribute to recent declines in honey bees and native bees. Michelle is passionate about disease ecology research that can lead to healthier ecosystems, in addition to science communication and providing mentorship to aspiring researchers.

For more information on Michelle Fearon's research:

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Photo Credit: Dan Wyns

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Tags: agriculture, beekeeping, home gardening, landscaping, lawn & garden, managed pollinator protection plan, msu extension, pollinators and pollination

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Ana Heck

Ana Heck
heckanar@msu.edu