Date of this Version
Environ. Res. Lett. 13 (2018) 084016
Societal dependence on insects for pollination of agricultural crops has risen amidst concerns over pollinator declines. Habitat loss and lack of forage have been implicated in the decline of both managed and native pollinators. Land use changes in the Northern Great Plains of the US, a region supporting over 1 million honey bee colonies annually, have shifted away from historical grassland ecosystems bees rely on for forage toward landscapes dominated by corn, soybeans, and other row crops. We investigated how land use impacts honey bee colony population size during the growing season and subsequent colony population size for almond pollination in central California the following February.We provide estimates of how land use affects beekeeper economics by linking summer habitat with pollination service payments and later production of new colonies. Our results demonstrate that a greater presence of non-bee foraged agricultural crops surrounding apiaries in the summer results in smaller colonies by the end of the growing season. Apiaries with colonies exhibiting smaller population size in the autumn were also smaller during almond pollination the following spring; impacting the beekeeper with a reduced per-colony rental fee for pollination services and reduced potential for creating new spring colonies, based on prior growing season land use. This study highlights the downstream effects of factors driving land use decisions on the ability of beekeepers to provide robust honey bee colonies to support the pollination industry on a national scale. It also demonstrates the direct linkages between habitat in the Northern Great Plains, bee health, and pollination services rendered elsewhere in the US.