News Release 

Honey bee declines in cultivated landscapes

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

A study examines the fate of honey bees in intensely farmed landscapes. Efforts to increase crop production via monocultures can endanger species. To better understand how intensive agriculture affects honey bees, Adam G. Dolezal and colleagues tracked honey bee nutrition and colony growth in 2015 and 2016 in Iowa, an intensively farmed state and leader in soybean production. Colonies near soybean fields in highly cultivated landscapes grew larger in June through August than colonies in areas with less cultivated landscapes. Between August and October, however, all colonies experienced severe declines in colony weight, and individual bees exhibited reduced fat reserves. To determine whether habitat enhancement could mitigate the late-season effects, the authors moved some colonies in August to prairie sites with flowering perennials. The authors found that colonies with access to prairie did not suffer from weight loss or reduced fat stores. The findings suggest that intensely farmed landscapes can provide short-term gains to colony growth but fail to support long-term colony health. Moreover, expanding late-season floral resources may enhance the viability of honey bee colonies in agricultural landscapes, according to the authors.

Article #19-12801: "Native habitat mitigates feast-famine conditions faced by honey bees in an agricultural landscape," by Adam G. Dolezal, Ashley L. St. Clair, Ge Zhang, Amy L. Toth, and Matthew E. O'Neal.

MEDIA CONTACT: Adam G. Dolezal, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, IL; tel: 217-300-6762, 618-210-9485; email: adolezal@illinois.edu

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