Native pollinators step up

Red Belted BumblebeeRachel Mallinger, Research Assistant
Department of Entomology
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Phone (608) 262-4060

The tiniest pollinators have a global impact. Rachel Mallinger tells us the fate of Wisconsin native bees. 


3:06 – Total Time

0:18 – Pollinator research topic
0:43 – Trouble spots for native pollinators
1:13 – Things pollinators need
1:42 – Farmers helping native bees
2:14 – What to look for
2:40 – Future of native pollinators
2:57 – Lead out

Rachel Mallinger on native pollinators



Sevie Kenyon: Rachel, perhaps you could introduce us to your kind of work and research here.


Rachel Mallinger: I’m studying wild native bees, and I’m looking at their abundance and diversity across Wisconsin. What effects their populations, and what we can do to conserve them. And then also looking at their role in pollination, so how important are these wild native bees for pollinating our crops, and can we rely on them to pollinate our crops.


Sevie Kenyon: And what kind of things can you infer from your research so far?


Rachel Mallinger: For the wild native bees habitat is really important. Habitat loss is a major factor that effects their populations, so when we clear prairies or forests, they lose their flowers, they lose their nesting habitat. And the larger bees in particular, the bumblebees,  are the ones that seem to be doing worse with habitat loss and in general their populations are declining.


Sevie Kenyon: What kinds of wildlife habitats favor the wild bees?


Rachel Mallinger: They need flowers, and they need a diversity of flowers, and they need flowers from April through October. Prairies  for example would be a great habitat; but many urban gardens as well provide that. And then they need a nesting habitat, and this is where some of the more undisturbed area like woodlots or prairies often have those twigs, snags, stems.


Sevie Kenyon: Are there commercial growers actually trying to encourage native pollinators?


Rachel Mallinger: All wild native bees do play a large role in pollinating our crops. I’ve found that many growers can rely just on native bees and don’t have to bring in honeybees. I think many growers of pollinator dependent crops in Wisconsin that include cranberries, apples, cucumbers, they’re very aware of the value of native pollinators. So they do a lot to either bring them in or just keep them around. And I think they’re starting to do more and more of that.


Sevie Kenyon: What can you tell us about the native pollinators themselves?


Rachel Mallinger: So in Wisconsin we think that there are about 500 on the upwards of 600 species of native wild pollinators, and they very in size, and shape, and color. Many of them nest underground in long tunnels, but some nest above ground in these woody stems, longs, twigs, things like that. Most are solitary, so they don’t have large colonies.


Sevie Kenyon: How do you feel about the future of the native pollinators?


Rachel Mallinger: I don’t think we’re going to lose all bees, but there’s some bee species that we have to learn to conserve. I’m optimistic, I think people are becoming more and more aware of native bees and the value of pollinators. And I think there’s a lot we can do to conserve them that’s relatively easy.


Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting today with Rachel Mallinger, Department of Entomology, University of Wisconsin- Madison in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and I am Sevie Kenyon.



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