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populations, we have the ability to slow it. We just need the will. Plant reproduction is limited by a

lack of pollinators, which may be due in part to ongoing declines in bee populations.

Elle blames the decline on a

variety of factors, including diseases and parasites, habitat loss and pesticides.

Although there doesn’t appear to be much bee death when pesticides are used responsibly, there can be considerable losses with even a single incident of irresponsible use. Mono-cropping is not helpful for increasing bee numbers, because bees require sources of pollen and nectar throughout the season, not just for a week or two when that crop is in blossom.

However, when mono-crops are adjacent to uncultivated land, pollination is better, because wild bee populations are larger when they have alternative sources of food once the crop has finished its brief blossom period, she reports. Growers who care about conservation of wild land around their fields tend to have better pollination because of the need for wild bumble bees to have forage nearby before and after the crop flowers, Elle says.

Wild pollinators are needed to maximize yields by supplementing honey bee pollination in many pollinator-dependent agricultural systems.

Unfortunately, some bumble bees are in decline just as honey bees are, she warns. There’s new evidence for a spillover of disease from domestic honey bees into wild bee populations, and some species of bumble bees have a higher pathogen load than in years past.

To make a difference, people can plant a garden that provides a variety of colours, shapes and sizes of flowers with different and extended bloom times, so bees always have forage available to keep them alive.

Another problem that affects the abundance and diversity of wild bees is invasive plants, which also often create a mono-culture, presenting bloom for a brief time, then dying off and leaving bees without forage throughout the season.

18 British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2016

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