This, That or the Other: What Plant Do Pollinators Prefer?

Monday, October 26, 2015
Feed a Bee Partner Blog Series - Anoka-Ramsey Community College

By Melanie Waite-Altringer, Biology Faculty, Anoka-Ramsey Community College

 

The Feed a Bee campaign is more than just a movement to increase forage area for bees and other pollinators. It also provides partners with the opportunity to conduct research and learn more about what types of forage are best for pollinating insects.

 

As a Biology faculty Member at the Coon Rapids, Minnesota campus of Anoka-Ramsey Community College, I’ve been conducting sustainable energy research along with beneficial pollinating insect studies over the last few years on our Cambridge, Minnesota campus. Five undergraduate research students worked with me this past summer collecting all of the beneficial insect data within three different field environments: a crop of InVigor® Canola, a restored prairie and a wildflower field planted with seeds provided by the Feed a Bee initiative.

 

Our overall goal was to determine which of the field environments, or combinations thereof, is most beneficial to the pollinating insects in East Central Minnesota. Basically, the question we set out to answer was, are pollinators better off foraging in canola, wildflower or restored prairie fields?

 

The series of photos below help to show the hard work we’ve put in over the past summer:
 
 
aarc-undergraduate-research-students
ARCC Undergraduate research students next to the recently planted wildflower field.

 
beneficial-insect-count-locations
Beneficial Insect Count locations at all three fields (InVigor canola – red, wildflower –blue, restored prairie – yellow).

 

Planting of the 64 acre InVigor canola field and the 25 acre wildflower fields began in late April and early May. All seeds were provided by Bayer CropScience and the Feed a Bee initiative.


planting invigor 
Planting InVigor canola using a brillion seeder on extremely sandy soil on the Cambridge campus of Anoka-Ramsey Community College.

 

The 18 acre prairie that was part of the study was restored over 15 years ago, so it has been well established for some time.

 

restoration 

 

Insect counts began on June 5th within the restored prairie area, on June 23rd within the canola field, and on July 1st within the wildflower field.

 

anoka-ramsey

 

students in invigor field 

 

Research students conducting insect counts in Restored Prairie and in the InVigor canola field.

 
wildflower-field3
Wildflower Field

 

Beneficial pollinating insects were flourishing at each field at various times throughout the summer.


restored prairie   
Restored Prairie


wildflower-field
Wildflower Field


invigor-conola
InVigor Canola

 

The insect counts ended in August and the InVigor canola field was prepared for harvest on August 20th. The wildflower field remained in bloom through mid-September and the restored prairie became mainly tall grasses with a few flowers still blooming.


invigor-conola2
InVigor canola


wildflower-field2
Wildflower field
 

restored prairie 2 
Restored Prairie

 

Our research so far seems to suggest that pollinators may prefer a combination of all three fields or the pairing of wildflowers and canola, but we still have more trial data analysis to do before we can come to a final conclusion!  

 

This January, a few of my students and I will travel to the Bee Care Center to present and discuss our findings with the Bee Care team. Our ultimate goal is to educate others about our findings for the greatest positive impact on pollinator health.

 

This year’s sustainable energy and beneficial insect study would not have been possible without the help of Bayer CropScience and the Feed a Bee partnership. Our College is extremely grateful for all of the assistance they have provided throughout the year!

 

 


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