Ground nesting bee on ground

Research update: Ground-nesting and orchid pollinators

The UF/IFAS Honey Bee Lab has collaborated on research that led to two 2019 publications on wild pollinators. Below are summaries of the research as well as links to the full publications.

Native orchid pollination

This research was conducted through the collaborative efforts of UF/IFAS (Entomology and Nematology Department, Environmental Horticulture Department, and Florida Museum of Natural History) and the Agricultural Research Service of the USDA.

Key findings: 

Encyclia tampensis

Encyclia tampensis image by Malcolm Manners Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) available from https://www.flickr.com/photos/mmmavocado/2613491678/in/photostream/

  1. The overly-exploited butterfly orchid (Encyclia tampensis), a species native to Florida, is not able to pollinate itself, but rather relies on the movement of pollen by Hymenoptera (e.g. bees and wasps), Diptera (true flies), and Coleoptera (beetles).
  2. An endangered Florida native, the clamshell orchid (Prosthechea cochleata), readily self-pollinates, but is also pollinated by some species of Hymenoptera.

Significance: These findings provide valuable information for the conservation of these exploited/endangered Florida native orchids, and can be used in management practices aimed at re-establishing these species in the state.

For more details, read the publication here: https://doi.org/10.1653/024.102.0125

Ray, H. A., Stuhl, C. J., Kane, M. E., Ellis, J. D., Daniels, J. C., & Gillett-Kaufman, J. L. (2019). Aspects of the pollination biology of Encyclia tampensis, the commercially exploited butterfly orchid, and Prosthechea cochleata, the endangered clamshell orchid, in south Florida. Florida Entomologist, 102(1), 154-160.

Ground-nesting bees and wasps

This research was conducted through the collaborative efforts of UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology Department and the University of California. Researchers surveyed the prevalence of ground-nesting bees and wasps 1) in wildflower plantings and fallow areas in agricultural landscapes and 2) in forest habitats of upland pine and hammock.

Emergence trap in a wildflower planting (UF/IFAS image by Josh Campbell)

Emergence trap in a wildflower planting (UF/IFAS image by Josh Campbell)

Key findings:

  1. When using emergence traps (Figure 1), ground-nesting bees and wasps were more abundant with agricultural landscapes in managed wildflower plots than in fallow field edges.
  2. Ground-nesting bees and wasps are also more abundant in upland pine habitats than in hammock habitats (possibly due to soil composition and/or food availability).

Significance: Most solitary, flower-visiting wasp species and about 70% of all bee species nest underground. Such insects provide valuable pollination services in both agricultural and natural environments. Understanding the nesting preferences of ground-nesting bees and wasps can guide management decisions related to the conservation of such species. This is especially significant since worldwide pollinator declines have been attributed, in part, to habitat loss and change.

For more details, read the publication here: https://doi.org/10.4039/tce.2019.3

Cope, G. C., Campbell, J, W., Grodsky, S. M., & Ellis, J. D. (2019). Evaluation of nest-site selection of ground-nesting bees and wasps (Hymenoptera) using emergence traps. The Canadian Entomologist, 151(2), 260-271.