BRYAN DANFORTH: So we've been surveying the wild bee fauna of 20 or so orchards in upstate New York for the past eight years, and we've been surveying two of the Cornell orchards right here where we're located, the Cornell Ithaca orchard and the Cornell Lansing orchard. In our surveys, we're up to 105 native bee species in New York state visiting apple orchards, and that's a quarter of the bee fauna of New York state. There about 450 species of bees in New York.
This orchard has always had a very diverse native bee fauna and the native bees are quite abundant, and so in talking with the orchard manager, we decided this year that we would try not bringing in the honeybees. At this site, we're at about 35 native bee species, and that doesn't count the honeybee. The honeybee is not a native species. So it's not only the diversity but also the abundance that makes this site a good candidate for not necessarily bringing in honeybees.
Here, we've got a pretty representative fauna of bees in a typical diverse apple orchard. We've got carpenter bees, the genus Xylocopa. We have mason bees in the genus Osmia. We have ground nesting bees in the genus Colletes. These are early spring ground nesting bees that form large, dense nesting aggregations in south-facing sandy slopes around this area. And then we've got a ton of species in the genus Andrena, which are, again, ground nesting solitary bees. And that's probably the dominant fauna right here are the Andrena, and they're very effective apple pollinators.
So what is the motivation for an orchard not to bring in honeybees? So there's the financial side, there's the sustainability side, and then, I think there's just the general sense that it would be nice to not be dependent on, reliant on, the honeybee rentals because honeybee rentals may go up in price. So apple growers will be buffered against fluctuating honeybee prices if they know that they have a wild bee fauna that's diverse and abundant.
So we've been talking to apple growers up in Lake Ontario. Some big operations up there are now stopping-- they're no longer using honeybees, and they've been able to continue to produce apples without a problem. So I'm in touch with growers up there who are trying this experiment, same kind of experiment we're doing down here in Cornell, and so far it's working well. But this may not be an option for every apple grower in New York state, but it's certainly a good option for the apple growers who have got a pretty nice natural habitat around their orchards.
Looks good. I think we're safe. I don't think we need the honeybees here.
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Entomology professor Bryan Danforth discusses the decision this year to let wild bees pollinate Cornell's apple orchards, steering away from the practice of renting hives of European honeybees.