Posts written by Maria Van Dyke

Time to count your native bees in your orchards!!

Apple bee communities: what’s a-buzz in New Hampshire Orchards?

What a crazy Spring, eh? I went swimming in the sunshine and then huddled under 3 thick blankets a day later. Hopefully, our native bees are taking it in stride because bloom is here!

With blankets across my lap, I recently chatted with Anna Wallingford, the UNH Cooperative Extension State Specialist, Entomology & IPM and Alina Harris, Integrated Pest and Pollinator Management Specialist,      The Xerces Society & NRCS Partner Biologist, about their Integrated Pest & Pollinator Management (IPPM) Project in New Hampshire Apple Orchards. They will be testing pollinator & landscape assessment tools to evaluate the abundance of native bees contributing to apple pollination in New Hampshire apple orchards. We are excited that our NEPP app will be assessing the bee community and grower practices while the Beescape landscape evaluation tool will assess the habitat quality around the orchard.

Inspiration for project

Anna and Alina were inspired to implement this research to build relationships with the grower community in New Hampshire.  “We want to learn about what technology they use, how and why they use it, and their cultural management practices as well as their overall philosophy.” said Anna. The goals of the project      are to identify the bee community and identify pollinator habitat that is already existing in and surrounding      the orchards. Sharing their findings with growers will provide a segue to educating growers about the bees they are finding in their orchard and sharing information about the best (IPPM) management practices for protecting bees while also protecting their crops.

This project is an opportunity to see where extension, NRCS, and Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation can support and engage growers but also learn from each other so that they can better work together to provide service to growers. Their hope is that building relationships with growers will help the growers feel more comfortable reaching out to extension or NRCS for their expertise.

Data Collection

Anna, Alina, and Xerces teammates Hannah Mullally, and Kelly Gill will use the NEPP app to record the weather, and the number of visits from native bees versus honey bees in a 5-minute period in a 1 sq meter area for each observation.  The model that the App was based off determines that a tree is getting efficient pollination if there are at least 4 visits from native bees in the 5-minute window in the 1 sq meter area.

Their team will visit each orchard one time and take multiple observations.  At least three observations will be conducted in the center of the orchard, farthest away from any edge habitat. See Bee Abundance Analysis. Three more observations will be conducted about three rows (5-15 meters) in from the edge of the orchard section. In previous studies at Cornell and University of Wisconsin researchers have found diminished visitation by wild bees at the center of very large orchards. However, orchards here in the northeast and especially up in New Hampshire tend to be smaller and tucked up against forests, which offer nest habitat and floral resources to bees. As a result, they predict New Hampshire orchards do not rely on honey bees for pollination and they predict that native bee visitation will be about the same near the edge and in the center for this region. That would be good news for pollinator health and the future of apple pollination!

Grower support

This collaborative project between UNH Extension, NRCS and Xerces will run for two years. This first year they will deliver a packet of apple IPPM management information to each participating grower.  It will include information on native bees, basic identification, and their habitats on the farm.  Recognition of these existing habitats within or abutting the orchard may inspire growers to protect pollinators from pesticides and reduce their reliance on purchased/rented honey bees or bumble bees.  Furthermore, some of the same habitats support beneficial insects that attack orchard pests.  The apple IPPM team will distribute information on preventative cultural techniques such as field sanitizing (destroying infested plant tissue), that are used in concert with other pest management techniques.  Since many New England growers rely on pesticides to produce a marketable crop, information also includes how to use those protective materials in the most accurate way, such as scouting, trapping, or using weather models to determine economic thresholds which then triggers pesticide intervention decisions.  Part of using pesticides accurately is regularly calibrating pesticide application equipment, which has been a topic that UNH Extension, NRCS, and Xerces has united in promoting to growers.  “Alongside the orchardists, we are learning the intricate dance between pollinator conservation that sustains crop production, and a marketable crop that feeds our local community.” said Alina.

Here at NEPP, we were grateful to hear that our neighbors over in New Hampshire will be getting involved in this fun and meaningful research. The more we learn the more we can help our northeast apple growers.

May your flowers bloom and bee visited often!

Interested in assessing how many native bees are in your orchard? Here is how. (If you see 4 or more native bees visiting a flower in a one-sq meter area in 5-minutes, you can celebrate. If not, then read our previous blog about NY pollinator protection and attracting more native bees to your land.)

How to survey your bees – apple bloom 2018!

Count bees on your apple blossoms NOW!

While just before and just after bloom are good bee counting days, peak bloom is the prime time for assessing the contribution of your bees to your orchard.


  1. 1. Go to the Bee Count page on our website. There you will find access to the next three steps.
  2. 2. Study the Native Bee ID training materials (Bee Count page)
  3. 3. Watch the Bee Counting Instructions Video (Bee Count page)
  4. 4. Download the Bee Count App. (Bottom of Bee Count page) or go directly to the App here.
  5. 5. When peak bloom is here…  Submit a bee count survey 3-5 times in each orchard lot, on a sunny day with greater than 60˚F temperature.  Make sure to be at least 10 meters from outer edge of orchard for a more conservative estimate.
  6. 6. Email us if you have any questions.

Check out our 2017 bloom summary to see what we learned last year.

Happy Spring

The Northeast Pollinator Partnership

Wild Bees Got Strategy

These native bees got strategy: how native bees deal with weather extremes.

All bees have the same goal: To create, protect and nourish their growing eggs, larvae and pupae.  Native bee species spend most of their life in their nest and they are small and elusive.  The mystery of it all makes it easy to suspect the worst but actually native bees indigenous to NY are possibly better equipped for these variable and extreme weather events than one might think.  To this end bee species have developed multiple ways to deal with variable and often extreme weather conditions like our recent late summer 2016 drought and wet and cold spring 2017.

Example of a moisture barrier (waxy film) in a ground nesting bee (Colletes); Photo credit:

Some bee species line their nest with a waxy substance that has water repelling properties to the outside and moisture retention properties to the inside to prevent extra moisture from entering the nesting cell as well as preventing their brood from desiccating (see photo).  Extra moisture in nesting cells makes pollen provisions prone to fungal infection.

Another bee strategy is to produce quickly developing offspring that mature into workers and new reproductive females within the same season giving them multiple chances to lay and provision eggs each year.

And still other bee species stagger the development of their offspring by entire years so that they will emerge at a variety of times (same season, next season or delayed emergence for 2 or more seasons).

The latter strategy is common in desert regions where unpredictable drought conditions occur.   This delayed emergence is possible because bees diapause. Diapause is where the bee goes into a state of low metabolic activity during the winter months to conserve energy until the following season, very similar to a bear’s need to hibernate. It’s possible our NY bees utilize a similar delayed emergence strategy as desert bees to deal with the unpredictable wet spring and late summer drought conditions we can experience here in the northeast. Native bees are not opposed to hedging their bets and may have coined the term, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”.

While there is still much to learn about species response to extreme weather conditions in the northeast, research has repeatedly encountered bee nests in irrigated agricultural fields, leading us to believe many bees have the ability to deal with excess water. Reports on ground-nesting bee response to flood-like conditions is less predictable. While some bees can survive hurricane flooding, other bee populations have been decimated when the water table gets too high or river banks flood.

Preliminary analyses of Smartphone bee survey

Figure 1. Temperature at which bees exceed required minimum for adequate pollination of apple per 5 minute survey (> 60˚F)

We can’t yet determine how last years’ drought and the wet, cold ‘apple bloom’ weather impacted early Spring native bee population survival.  Our survey data from this wet Spring 2017 shows that most bees were not foraging at efficient proportions until the temperature was above 60˚F and sunny (Figure 1) and bumble bees and carpenter bees pulled the weight for most of the weather-affected orchards.  These are some of the few species that are known to fly in inclement weather.  Thankfully, many growers who were impacted by the wet weather conditions have reported that they received sufficient pollination for successful apple production this year.

Figure 2. Native bee and honey bee abundance depends on pesticide management program (2017).

Based on the App data that many of you submitted, IPM growers experienced slightly higher native bee counts in their orchards (Figure 2). Considering that the conventional orchards who submitted data were surrounded by 14% more forage habitat (p = 0.02; natural landscape and pollinator dependent crops) it’s possible this difference would have been greater.

In conclusion we will need to wait and see what next year brings. A poor foraging season one year can cause a dip in the population the following year, but bounce back after a few good foraging seasons.  To monitor native bee resilience, it will be even more important for all of you to use our Bee Survey app next apple bloom.

Reminder: Individual participant recommendations will be distributed in August!