Date of this Version
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 230 (2016) 139–149
The Northern Great Plains region of the US annually hosts a large portion of commercially managed U.S. honey bee colonies each summer. Changing land use patterns over the last several decades have contributed to declines in the availability of bee forage across the region, and the future sustainability of the region to support honey bee colonies is unclear. We examined the influence of varying land use on the survivorship and productivity of honey bee colonies located in six apiaries within the Northern Great Plains state of North Dakota, an area of intensive agriculture and high density of beekeeping operations. Land use surrounding the apiaries was quantified over three years, 2010–2012, and survival and productivity of honey bee colonies were determined in response to the amount of bee forage land within a 3.2-km radius of each apiary. The area of uncultivated forage land (including pasture, USDA conservation program fields, fallow land, flowering woody plants, grassland, hay land, and roadside ditches) exerted a positive impact on annual apiary survival and honey production. Taxonomic diversity of bee-collected pollen and pesticide residues contained therein varied seasonally among apiaries, but overall were not correlated to large-scale land use patterns or survival and honey production. The predominant flowering plants utilized by honey bee colonies for pollen were volunteer species present in unmanaged (for honey bees), and often ephemeral, lands; thus placing honey bee colonies in a precarious situation for acquiring forage and nutrients over the entire growing season. We discuss the implications for land management, conservation, and beekeeper site selection in the Northern Great Plains to adequately support honey bee colonies and insure long term security for pollinator-dependent crops across the entire country.