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Ongoing project

Healthy bee populations for sustainable pollination in horticulture (PH15001)

Key research provider: Western Sydney University

What’s it all about?

This project is addressing key knowledge gaps and delivering education to support healthy pollinator populations and to boost on-farm pollination.

Insect pollinators are declining globally, threatening productivity in cropping systems. Our understanding of the role of different native pollinators – such as native bees and other insects – along with honey bees in pollinating crops under field conditions is limited. We also lack knowledge about the diversity and abundance of pollinator populations on farms, and how we might be able to support them by enhancing floral nectar and pollen resources.

One aspect of this is the need to know what floral resources key bee species – such as honey bees, stingless bees and blue‐banded bees – use in different seasons, and what non-crop plants that are high-value for bees are readily available and suitable for farm plantings. In addition, we need to better understand disease threats in pollinator communities, including the extent to which native bees share diseases with honey bees and vice versa.

These knowledge gaps require new research, but also communication of issues and best practices to beekeepers, horticulture growers and the public.

This project aims to address these knowledge gaps through five objectives:

  1. Identify what pollinator species are present on farms and which species visit and pollinate different horticultural crops in field situations

  2. Determine how bees use different floral resources across seasons and devise and test appropriate farm-level floral enhancement schemes

  3. Test how experimentally manipulated climate changes affects the timing, quality and quantity of nectar and pollen available to bees in key forage plants

  4. Determine what microbial diseases infect insects in Australian pollinator communities and which of these diseases are shared across native and honey bee populations

  5. Inform and educate growers and land managers about bee population health.

The project will involve field work on almond, apple and cherry crops.