Attracting Wild Pollinators to Orchards: Applications for Sensory Ecology

Insect pollinators are vital for agriculture. Unfortunately, recent pollinator declines threaten food security, biodiversity, and the agricultural economy. Pollinator management typically focuses on honey bees (Apis mellifera), but native bees are often more efficient pollinators. Attracting native bees to agricultural areas is an efficient and sustainable solution to our escalating pollinator crisis. Recent research from collaborators in Cornell Entomology showed that wild bumble bee queens are highly attracted to the nests of other bumble bees, which they try to usurp. I aim to develop a tool that exploits this attraction, encouraging bees to nest and pollinate in orchards. This summer, I will determine what factors nest-searching bumble bees use to locate and select nest sites. The results will inform the design of this tool and fill a gap in our knowledge of this ecologically important species. With this knowledge and integrated grower feedback, we will prototype design for 3D printed artificial nest cavities to simulate natural burrows.

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