Wednesday, 17 November 2004 - 10:20 AM

Bees and seed production for native plant restoration in wildlands

James Cane,, USDA-ARS Bee Biology & Systematics Laboratory, Utah State University, Logan, UT

Conservation studies involving wildflower pollination typically address reproductive shortcomings of endangered rare plants. However, affordable tonnage of native wildflower seed for rehabilitation of public lands in the Intermountain West will of necessity come from agricultural production. On average, 2,000,000 pounds of grass, shrub and forb seed is bought and dispersed annually for such rangeland rehabilitation; less than 0.5% comes from native wildflowers because wild-harvested seed, if available, costs up to $60/lb. Nine promising wildflower species are being evaluated for their breeding biologies and the necessity and identities of pollinators. Pollinators are essential for full seed set at Penstemon speciosus, Balsamorhiza sagittata, Hedysarum boreale, Lomatium dissectum and Lupinus argenteus. Native non-social bees are the predominant visitors to these species. Manageable and effective pollinators from three speciose cavity-nesting bee genera, Osmia, Hoplitis and Megachile, visit one or more of these forb species. Among these are cavity-nesting species for which captive populations are being studied for management potential. Two native Osmia species are now available to growers needing to pollinate B. sagittata. Not only can managed native bees benefit commercial production of wildflower seed, but successful habitat rehabilitation using this seed can benefit native pollinator communities.

Species 1: Hymenoptera Megachilidae Osmia (mason bee)
Species 2: Hymenoptera Megachilidae Megachile (leafcutting bee)
Species 3: Hymenoptera Megachilidae Hoplitis
Keywords: restoration ecology, pollination

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