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The New Pollinators

THERE ARE STILL NO GOOD ANSWERS about the mysterious disease killing millions of European honeybees—the chief pollinator of some $15 billion in agricultural crops. But at least there may be an alternative. A new CALS research project suggests that native bees may be able to assume much of, if not all, of the imported European bee’s workload. “What people don’t really think about (is that) there are 4,000 species of native bees in North America,” says entomology graduate student Hannah Gaines who collected more than 100 native bee species from 15 Wisconsin cranberry bogs during the past two summers, With associate entomology professor Claudio Gratton, she is now working to evaluate what kinds of surrounding landscapes best support native bees, which could help farmers create native bee habitat and reduce their dependence on rented honeybee hives.