Kentucky Ag News
UK researchers studying the buzz around Lexington
University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Abi Saeed of the University of Kentucky can tell you no two plant species are alike, especially when it comes to their abilities to attract pollinators.
Saeed and UK entomology professor Dan Potter are studying the types of bees various woody ornament plants attract in urban areas. Their study, which began in April, is the first comprehensive study of its kind.
“So far, we’ve found at least 30 different bee species, with more likely to come,” said Saeed, who recently received a master’s degree in entomology from the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. “We’re noticing that some plants attract different species of bees than others.”
In the past five to 10 years, researchers estimate that pollinator populations have declined between 30 and 60 percent, depending on the pollinator. While much of the attention has focused on dwindling honeybee populations due to colony collapse disorder, native bee populations including bumblebees, mason bees and many other solitary bee species, are also on the decline. Habitat loss due to urban and suburban sprawl is one of the main reasons.
Saeed, Potter and Bernadette Mach, a UK graduate student, will spend two growing seasons cataloging bee species and populations from around 40 different woody ornamental trees and shrubs in Lexington. Some woody ornamentals, like hollies, bottlebrush, buckeye, summersweet clethra, and Peegee hydrangeas are proving to have large populations and diversity of pollinators while others, such as azaleas and hybrid tea roses, are not.
“We hope to have a good data set for the types of bees that visit certain plants, so we can make recommendations to homeowners who want to have a year round source of nectar and pollen for bees in their landscape,” Saeed said.
In addition, they will concentrate on ways to reduce exposure of bees to insecticides that may be used to control destructive insect pests of lawns and landscapes.
“By identifying plants that are very important to bees, we can educate our green industries—tree and lawn care professionals and others—about what kinds of plants they should be especially careful around when making an insecticide application,” Potter said. “We think there are ways we can control important insect pests using insecticides but adjust the time of the treatments in such a way that they don’t end up in nectar and pollen.”