UM researcher awarded grant to study native bee communities

By Collegian News Staff

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University of Massachusetts Associate Professor Anne Averill received a $3.3 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture last Friday to create a plan to save bees native to the Northeast.

“Declines in pollinator populations have been highlighted in the news for several years,” said Averill, associate professor of insect sciences, in a press release. “This is especially true for managed honey bees, but is also the case for some species of our wild, native bees. Our research team believes that if the dwindling of pollinators continues, we will be faced with a crisis in crop pollination.”

Bees are critical in pollinating several crops in the Northeast including apples, low-bush blueberries, cranberries and pumpkins.

According to the release, the project will involve more than a dozen scientists from Maine, New York, Connecticut and Tennessee. The group will focus on maintaining diversity in native bees and managed bees to ensure long-term pollination.

“Our major focus will be on the biology, role and conservation of wild bee communities in farm habitats,” said Averill in a press release.

The scientist will work extensively with farmers who grow the target crop, in the hopes of persuading them to adopt the practices developed during the study.

Researchers will study factors that affect pollination such as landscape, pesticide use, farm size and crop diversity according to the release. They will also examine the effects of pathogens and pesticides.

The aim of the project is “most predictive” of abundance and richness of wild bee species according to the release.

– Collegian Staff