Bees and Their Habitats in Four New England States [bulletin]

Published by the Maine Agricultural and Forest Experiment Station

This publication was produced by members of the Northern New England Pollinator Habitat Working Group, funded by the Northeastern IPM Center through Grant #2014-70006-22484 from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Crop Protection and Pest Management, Regional Coordination Program.

Four states contain over 401 species of bees, about which little is known except for a few common species. Forests of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont were largely cleared in colonial times, then trees grew back as of the 1870s. Canopy closure, urbanization, and intensive agriculture have led to reduced habitats for bees. Managed and wild bees of the region are found especially in forest openings. Many visit flowers across different plant species, though an estimated 15% visit only one or a few plant taxa. Because bee life histories, population dynamics and host plant relations are incompletely known, an emphasis on habitat is appropriate because the environment can be manipulated. We list 15 bee habitats with natural and anthropogenic features, and suggest 40 plant taxa that may be effective in plantings for bees. Pollination systems in two native crops, lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) and cranberry (V. macrocarpon), are better-studied than most crops; from these we developed an economic perspectiveon altering habitat to support bees. Threats to bees include habitat loss, pests and pathogens, pesticides, and climate change. We consider practical aspects for improving pollinator habitats. The adoption of suggested habitat improvements will help meet goals in bee conservation and pollination security, and could aid in protecting pollination of the native flora. We identify gaps in knowledge to help prioritize future research directions.
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Nursery & Landscape Horticulture State Specialist Emeritus
Office: Cooperative Extension, Spaulding Hall Rm G36, Durham, NH 03824