The Bee Tells “Strawberry Fields Forever”

Strawberry flower in the Carolina’s

Things are well underway for the project, “Integrating pest and pollinator management”. The goal of this project is to better understand how pesticide use, honey bee stocking density, and landscape context are influencing native pollinator communities. Using the national land cover use database and GIS software, we’ve characterized the landscape surrounding many strawberry farms throughout North and South Carolina. We will be working on a maximum of 23 strawberry farms, 10 organic and 13 conventional, which span across a gradient of pest management intensity and surrounding landscape context. Strawberries benefit from insect mediated pollination and both yield and quality can be enhanced. Strawberries in our region will begin blooming in the coming weeks and we expect to visit farms from March-June before blooming ends. At each site, we will set out bee bowls and perform sweep net sampling along several transects to collect bees for ecological and molecular analysis. We know that strawberry fields often host many different pollinators, but we are specifically interested in three focal native species (Andrena nasonii, Lasioglossum hitchensi, and Augochlorella aurata). This spring we will determine which species are present in this region and this fall we will begin work to understand how pesticide intensity may influence immunity, and how pathogen dynamics change over the season.

By Jeremy Slone, PhD Student, North Carolina State University