Restored native prairie supports abundant and species-rich native bee communities on conventional farms


Native pollinators are increasingly needed on conventional farms yet rarely fostered via management. One solution is habitat restoration in marginal areas, but colonization may be constrained if resident pollinator richness is low or if restored areas fail to provide sufficient floral or nesting resources. We quantified restoration outcomes for native bees, and associated resources, on three conventional farms with forb-grass prairie plantings on marginal areas of varying sizes, in a heavily farmed region of central North America. We tested bee abundance and richness in restored prairie versus the dominant habitats of the region—crops, forest remnants, and edges of fields and roads. Restored prairie supported 2× more species (95 of 119 total species) and 3× more bees (72% of captured individuals) compared to the other cover types. All richness and abundance differences among habitat types were associated with higher floral resources in restored prairie. Thirty percent of the bee species were unique to prairie, consistent with long-distance dispersal but begging the question of origin given the absence of prairie regionally. Our results suggest that road and field edges may be the source, as these areas had more floral and nesting resources than forest or crop fields combined and supported 55% of all species despite covering only approximately 5% of the sampled farms. Habitat scarcity is not the only constraint on native bees in agricultural landscapes, with increasing concern over disease and chemicals. However, we observed that restored areas on marginal lands of conventional farms can support abundant and species-rich populations of native bees.

Restoration Ecology