The Mystery of Native Bee Declines in New England and North America
Sam Droege, U.S. Geological Survey Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab
Over 400 species of bees live solely off of the pollen of native and non-native plants in New England, if you look north of Mexico, the answer is 4,000 species. Most of these species are native and have been studied by specialists and amateurs since the 1800’s.  However, unlike birds and butterflies, the study of bee natural history has declined greatly until just the last few years. Our understanding of change, decline, loss and disappearance is consequently limited by the simple fact that there have been few people looking. That is beginning to now change and so I will talk about how new contributions are being made, discuss new ways to identify bees, how some bee identification with binoculars is now possible for the amateur, and what the probable drivers are to change in bee populations ( is not pesticides) and how changing those circumstances is something that everyone can participate in; from backyard, city park, rights of way, zoning regulations, and in challenging current landscape aesthetics of home, work and public space.
Are We Actually Benefitting Pollinators with Current Restoration Methods?
Alexandra Harmon-Threatt, Assistant Professor of Entomology, University of Illinois
Concern for pollinators has reached a fever pitch in recent years, culminating in the call for 7 million acres to be restored for pollinator conservation by the Pollinator Health Task Force. Habitat restoration is often recommended as necessary to help slow or mitigate pollinator losses but the restoration process uses a myriad of methods that can differentially affect pollinator conservation. Current research in restored areas show variability in their success establishing plants and supporting pollinators. This raises many questions about whether current restoration efforts are sufficient for restoring pollinators and can we make more targeted restoration plans. Together we will explore current restoration methods and recommendations, holes in our understanding of pollinator biology and ways to improve restoration for pollinators in agricultural, natural and urban areas.
Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production Around the World: What the Evidence Really Tells Us
Simon Potts, Professor of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Director, Centre for Agri-Environmental Research, University of Reading, UK
The plight of pollinators has risen rapidly up the public, scientific and political agendas.  There are more than a quarter of a million publications about pollinators as well as deep unwritten knowledge held by local and indigenous peoples around the world.  A wide array of threats to pollinators are reported in the media, and opinions are everywhere. But what does the evidence really tell us? To help inform decision making relating to pollinators and pollination, the United Nations commissioned a critical evaluation of the global evidence base. Here I share the report’s key findings on the diversity of values pollinators bring society, the status and trends of pollinators and the plants they pollinate, as well as the drivers of change, and the management and policy responses which are proven effective at safeguarding pollinators and the services they provide.
I’ll let the evidence tell the story and answer questions such as: Is there a global pollination crisis? What are the values of pollinators beyond food? Are Genetically Modified crops really bad for bees? How can we reduce the risks from pesticides without compromising food production? I’ll illustrate all these topics with examples drawn from around the world, and aim to show what is fact, what is a genuine knowledge gap, and what is only speculation.
What Can Pollinators Tell Us About Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Real-World Landscapes?
Rachael Winfree, Associate Professor of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources, Rutgers University
Pollinators deliver a critical ecosystem service worldwide. The species providing the service, and the contribution made by each species, are straightforward to measure in the field, at least relative to other kinds of services. For these reasons, pollinators and pollination have become a model system for exploring questions about the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem services. Hundreds of small-scale experiments have shown that ecosystem processes, including pollination, increase with the number of species providing them. On this basis, the maintenance of ecosystem services has become a cornerstone argument for the preservation of biodiversity globally. However, ecologists actually know rather little about how the biodiversity-function relationship works in real-world ecosystems. In this talk I identify the big questions about biodiversity and ecosystem services that remain to be answered at landscape scales, and how the answers might be systematically different from those already known from smaller scales. I organize my argument around the results of landscape-scale research on pollinators and pollination, as the study system making the single greatest contribution to this field.