Date of this Version
Otto, C.R.V., Smart, A., Cornman, R.S., Simanonok, M., and Iwanowicz, D.D., 2020, Forage and habitat for pollinators in the northern Great Plains—Implications for U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2020–1037, 64 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20201037.
Managed and wild pollinators are critical components of agricultural and natural systems. Despite the well-known value of insect pollinators to U.S. agriculture, Apis mellifera (Linnaeus, 1758; honey bees) and wild bees currently face numerous stressors that have resulted in declining health. These declines have engendered support for pollinatorconservation efforts across all levels of government, private businesses, and nongovernmental organizations. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Geological Survey initiated an interagency agreement to evaluate honey bee forage across multiple States in the northern Great Plains and upper Midwest. The long-term goal of this study was to provide an empirical evaluation of floral resources used by honey bees, and the relative contribution of multiple land covers and USDA conservation programs to bee health and productivity. Our multi-State analysis of land-use change from 2006 to 2016 revealed loss of grassland and increases in corn and soybean area in North and South Dakota, representing a significant loss of bee-friendly land covers in areas that support the highest density of summer bee yards in the entire United States. Our landscape models demonstrate the importance of the Conservation Reserve Program in providing safe locations for beekeepers to keep honey bees during the summer and highlights how land use in the northern Great Plains has a lasting effect on the health of honey bee colonies during almond pollination the subsequent spring. Our multiseason, multi-State genetic analysis of honey bee-collected pollen revealed Melilotus spp., Asteraceae, Trifolium spp., Fabaceae, Sonchus arvensis, Symphyotrichum cordifolium, and Solidago spp. were the top taxa detected; Melilotus spp. represented 42 percent of all detected taxa. Symphyotrichum cordifolium, Solidago spp., and Grindelia spp. were the top native forbs detected in honey bee-collected pollen. We also conducted plant and bee surveys on private lands enrolled in the Conservation