News / Science & Technology

Native Bees May Help Save Crops

Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Deborah Block

In June, U.S. President Barack Obama called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees and other pollinators that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease, pesticides and farming.

Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Before that can happen, though, scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, said biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees.

To most of us, a bee is just a bee, but not to Droege.

 “They’re beautiful to look at under a microscope,” he said at his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, between Washington and Baltimore.

Pioneering research

Four years ago, Droege began his pilot project surveying native bees for the U.S. government’s Geological Survey. He sorts them in pizza boxes, which he uses for storage. He says scientists know a lot about honeybees -- which produce honey and pollinate a third of U.S. crops - but very little about wild bees, which pollinate 75 percent of wild plants.

“They don’t produce honey. They don’t have a barbed sting. They’re not aggressive. Some like sandy soils, some like thick grass; some are only nesting in woods,” said Droege.

If the honeybee population continues to decline, Droege said wild bees have a better chance of survival because they are solitary.

“One of the reasons they’re more robust than honeybees is that they nest individually. One female makes one nest at a time. At the end of the year, the female dies and the whole system restarts so you don’t accumulate as many diseases,” he said.

Building inventory

Droege said his survey is only the first step in a long process to learn about wild bees. He said once scientists have an inventory, they can study their habits and use them to pollinate crops. He estimates there are 4,000 types of native bees in North America - 400 yet to be named.

“They haven’t been scientifically described. We might know that they’re different or they’re a new kind of species,” he said.

Most of Droege’s inventory comes from 20 U.S. forest sites across the country. He also travels to find bees, and doesn’t have to go far to discover some just outside the building housing his laboratory.

“I have no idea what I’m going to find each time. In just this region alone, there’s over 400 different species,” said Droege.

Gentle insects

He said the insects - some as tiny as a grain of rice - are on the ground, but people don’t notice them.  

“Most people have no idea that their lawns are nothing but grass interspersed with bee nests," said Droege.

Since some bee species look remarkably similar, Droege examines each one through a microscope and documents them with high-resolution photos.

“And the differences are real subtle, slightly different sizes and shapes, a little bit more color here than there, differences in the hair patterns,” he said.

Droege says his survey will show whether some species of wild bees are declining or flourishing.  He says that so far, scientists don’t know the answer, but he thinks most are doing just fine.

 

 

 

You May Like

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land In French Port

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching 'Fortress Europe' More

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

New Hints That Dark Matter Exists

New evidence from International Space Station hints at existence of dark matter and dark energy More

Comment Sorting
Comment on this forum (2)
Comments
     
by: Sandy Rowley from: Reno, Nv
August 22, 2014 1:17 PM
I have noticed that we do not have as many native pollinators in Reno. I have also seen dead bees of all kind, on side walks, around swimming pools and parks. There are some home owners that have lots of bees, while the rest have noticed a sharp decline in the amount of bees, dragonfly and other pollinating insects in their yards.

I hope this research helps to save our wild pollinators and is not to gather data for pesticide and big ag companies looking to abuse these beautiful insects like they have done to our honey bee.

In Response

by: Sam Droege from: Beltsville
August 22, 2014 3:54 PM
Sandy, could be lots of reasons for declines in Reno...pest control chemicals can have impacts. Best strategy for native bees is to plant native plants...decreasing watering needs and maintaining native bee populations right in town.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid