Scientists have determined that two-thirds of all crop plant species and about one-third of all calories consumed by people depend on pollinators. Most crop pollination is performed by wild pollinators, not domesticated honeybees. Some crop plants can only be pollinated by wild pollinators. For example, honeybees cannot effectively pollinate blueberries; only wild bees can. Other plants can be pollinated by honeybees, but wild bees do a much better job. When wild blue orchard bees pollinated cherry trees, crop yields were double when honey bees were used. If honeybees get sick and there are no wild bees present, farmers and orchard growers might not produce any crop at all. Wild plants that grow on remnant prairies or along crop field margins are important because they provide pollinating insects with food when crop plants are not in flower.

Habitat loss and fragmentation, habitat degradation, pesticide poisoning, the spread of diseases and parasites, and climate change are all affecting pollinator populations negatively.
Scientists have determined that two-thirds of all crop plant species and about one-third of all calories consumed by people depend on pollinators. Most crop pollination is performed by wild pollinators, not domesticated honeybees. Some crop plants can only be pollinated by wild pollinators. For example, honeybees cannot effectively pollinate blueberries; only wild bees can. Other plants can be pollinated by honeybees, but wild bees do a much better job. When wild blue orchard bees pollinated cherry trees, crop yields were double when honey bees were used. If honeybees get sick and there are no wild bees present, farmers and orchard growers might not produce any crop at all. Wild plants that grow on remnant prairies or along crop field margins are important because they provide pollinating insects with food when crop plants are not in flower.

Habitat loss and fragmentation, habitat degradation, pesticide poisoning, the spread of diseases and parasites, and climate change are all affecting pollinator populations negatively.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.

A video about insect pollination on the prairies.

An introductory video on prairie pollination.

The Manitoba Museum – Prairie Pollination

Few people notice insects unless they are getting bitten by one. But the activities of many of these little animals are actually very important to people. Scientists estimate that one in every three bites of food depends on a pollinator. Worldwide about 80% of all flowering plants need animal pollinators. Here in the Canadian prairies bees, flies, butterflies, moths and beetles are the most common pollinators. These insects carry hundreds of pollen grains from flower to flower every day as they search for food. Each tiny pollen grain contains the genetic information to create a new plant. This process ensures the survival of the next generation of plants. Without pollinators most of the world’s plants, including many crop plants, would go extinct.

The Manitoba Museum
Toastbot Media

Prairie Provinces, CANADA
© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A video about the value of Fescue prairie to humans and wildlife.

Dr. Art Davis with the University of Saskatchewan talks about how protecting wild pollinators and plants benefits humans.

The Manitoba Museum
Prairie Pollination - The Value of Fescue Prairie
Dr. Art Davis, Professor, University of Saskatchewan, and Melissa Pearn, Curatorial Assistant, The Manitoba Museum.

Canada’s prairies have become very rare as most of it has been converted to cropland. But scientists are finding that conserving and restoring native prairie can be good for agriculture. I’m out at Kernen Prairie, a patch of rare fescue prairie that’s owned by the University of Saskatchewan, just outside of Saskatoon, and with me today is Dr. Art Davis.
So Dr. Davis, how are wild plants and animals beneficial to humans?
Well, that’s a great question Melissa. Many insects and other animals are dependent solely on visiting flowers for nectar and pollen as food. And as they’re visiting those flowers, inadvertently they’re also moving pollen between the anthers of a flower and the stigma of the same species and without perhaps really knowing their importance to mankind, these animals are pollinating crops and many plants like in this more native setting.
So what would be a good example of a plant that feeds crop pollinators?
Well, we’re in the midst of several plants that depend on generalist pollinators. At this time of year, in late August now, it’s very common for members of the Asteraceae like asters and goldenrod and so on to be very eagerly visited by lots of insects.
So how important are wild pollinators to crop production? Can’t we just rely on domesticated honeybees?
Oh, that’s a very good question. Perhaps in decades past, we’ve relied so much on honeybees as pollinators. However, we’ve come to realize how vulnerable we are by depending so much on a single insect species as pollinator and in many environments like this one, it’s often a whole suite of different kinds of pollinating insects that are critical for optimum reproductive success in many of our angiosperms.
Well, thank you very much for talking to me today.
Oh. It’s my pleasure.
You’ve certainly given me something to think about.
Sure.

The Manitoba Museum
Toastbot Media
c. 2012
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, CANADA
© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A video about the pollinators of the rare Western Silvery Aster plant.

Learn more about the intricate plant-pollinator interaction web that the rare Western Silvery Aster plant is part of from Dr. Diana Bizecki Robson.

The Manitoba Museum
Prairie Pollination - Webs of Western Silvery Aster
Dr. Diana Bizecki Robson, Curator of Botany, and Melissa Pearn, Curatorial Assistant, The Manitoba Museum.

Over the past several years, Dr. Diana Robson from the Manitoba Museum has been sitting on this little stool here in Bird’s Hill Provincial Park staring at the plants growing in the tall grass prairie. Today, I’m here to find out why. Dr. Robson, what have you been doing out here for the past few years?
Well, I’ve actually been documenting which insect species pollinate the different plants that grow here on the tall grass prairie portions of the park.
Have you been focusing on any species in particular?
Yes, I’ve been looking a lot at this particular plant right here. It’s Western Silvery Aster. It’s got the very pretty pink petals and silvery leaves and the reason I’ve been focusing on it is because it’s endangered here in Canada.
Do you know what its pollinators are?
I’ve documented at least 21 insect species that visit this plant and are its likely pollinators. Interesting thing is that those same insects are actually visiting a wide variety of plants in the park before this plant even flowers in late August.
What does all that mean?
Well, it means that you can’t conserve a species in isolation. You actually have to protect all of the plants and the insects that are connected to it. Everything in the park is connected to each other in some way. It’s like a giant interaction web, kind of like a computer network.
That’s very interesting. Thank you Dr. Robson.
You’re welcome.

The Manitoba Museum
Toastbot Media
c. 2012
Birds Hill Provincial Park, Manitoba, CANADA
© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


A video about the scientific value of natural history collections that are preserved by Museums.

Take this behind-the-scenes tour of The Manitoba Museum’s natural history vault with Dr. Diana Bizecki Robson to see how research specimens are stored.

The Manitoba Museum
Prairie Pollination - The Manitoba Museum’s Collection Vault
Dr. Diana Bizecki Robson, Curator of Botany, and Melissa Pearn, Curatorial Assistant, The Manitoba Museum.

Today I get to go someplace where very few people are allowed: the Manitoba Museum’s Natural History Collections Vault.
With me here is the Museum’s botanist, Dr. Diana Robson. Dr. Robson, what kinds of things are stored in this vault?
Well, among other things, it’s where we store all of the plant and insect specimens that museum curators and other scientists collect when they do fieldwork.
So why are these specimens collected?
Well, there are a number of different reasons. For starters, it’s a way for a scientist to prove that they actually saw what they did when they were in the field. It’s also extremely difficult to identify certain organisms without looking at them under a microscope, particularly insects, so you pretty much have to collect a specimen if you want to know what species you were observing when you were in the field. Collecting specimens is also a way that you can share your specimens with other researchers who may be studying the same groups of organisms.
So how could these specimens help to solve real-world problems?
Well, specimens are used in all sorts of ways to understand how organisms move through space and through time. So, one good example is that specimens have been used to track the spread of exotic species. We’ve also been able to track diseases like West Nile and how they’ve actually been transmitted by animals. Specimens are also used to document climate change. In fact, one of the ways that we first knew that the climate was changing was by the observation that plants in the past were flowering about two weeks later than plants nowadays, indicating that it’s warming up more in the spring. These specimens can also be used to determine if an organism is becoming rarer over time and potentially in need of some conservation or protection.
So how do you determine when a species is becoming rarer?
Well, specimens have been collected for hundreds of years now and we know exactly where each organism was collected. So if you want to know if a species is becoming rare, you can simply go out to the location where it had been found in the past and see if the organism is still living there. If it’s not, if the habitat has been converted into a parking lot or an oil well or a farmer’s field, then you know that it’s become rarer over time.
Thank you, Dr. Robson.
You’re welcome.

The Manitoba Museum
Toastbot Media
c. 2012
Winnipeg, Manitoba, CANADA
© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Many of the crop plants grown in Canada depend on or benefit from pollinator visitation. The most common insect-pollinated crops in Canada are:

Fruits – apples, apricots, cherries, currants, melons, peaches, pears, plums;
Berries – blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries;
Forage plants – alfalfa, birds-foot trefoil, clover, crown vetch, lupine;
Legumes – beans, peas, peanuts, soybeans;
Medicinal herbs – borage, ginseng, Echinacea, St. John’s wort, etc.;
Nuts/seeds – buckwheat, chestnut;
Oilseeds – canola, flax, soybeans, sunflower;
Spices – coriander, caraway, mustard, etc.; and
Vegetables – broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, pumpkin, tomatoes, squashes, zucchini.
Many of the crop plants grown in Canada depend on or benefit from pollinator visitation. The most common insect-pollinated crops in Canada are:

Fruits – apples, apricots, cherries, currants, melons, peaches, pears, plums;
Berries – blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries;
Forage plants – alfalfa, birds-foot trefoil, clover, crown vetch, lupine;
Legumes – beans, peas, peanuts, soybeans;
Medicinal herbs – borage, ginseng, Echinacea, St. John’s wort, etc.;
Nuts/seeds – buckwheat, chestnut;
Oilseeds – canola, flax, soybeans, sunflower;
Spices – coriander, caraway, mustard, etc.; and
Vegetables – broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, pumpkin, tomatoes, squashes, zucchini.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.

A photograph of a field of Sunflower plants.

Sunflowers are one of the most important insect-pollinated oilseed crops grown in Canada.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Diana Bizecki Robson

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Although domesticated honeybees are commonly used to pollinate crops, increasingly wild pollinators are being encouraged as well. Andrenid, Miner and Digger Bees (Andrenidae), Bumblebees and Honeybees (Apidae), Leaf-cutter and Mason Bees (Megachilidae), Sweat and Halictid Bees (Halictidae), Flower Flies (Syrphidae), and Blow Flies (Calliphoridae) are the most common wild pollinators of crop plants. However, very little research has been done on the contribution of wild pollinators to crop production. Exactly which species of pollinating insects visit crop plants has been poorly documented.
Although domesticated honeybees are commonly used to pollinate crops, increasingly wild pollinators are being encouraged as well. Andrenid, Miner and Digger Bees (Andrenidae), Bumblebees and Honeybees (Apidae), Leaf-cutter and Mason Bees (Megachilidae), Sweat and Halictid Bees (Halictidae), Flower Flies (Syrphidae), and Blow Flies (Calliphoridae) are the most common wild pollinators of crop plants. However, very little research has been done on the contribution of wild pollinators to crop production. Exactly which species of pollinating insects visit crop plants has been poorly documented.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.

A photograph of a honeybee on a sunflower.

Honeybee on a sunflower. Honeybees are native to Asia and were domesticated to provide humans with honey, beeswax and to aid in crop production. In 2007, a syndrome called Colony Collapse Disorder began negatively effecting commercial honeybee colonies.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Diana Bizecki Robson

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a bumblebee on Showy Goldenrod flower heads.

Bumblebee on Showy Goldenrod.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Diana Bizecki Robson.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a mining bee on Golden Alexander flowers.

Mining bee on Golden Alexander.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Diana Bizecki Robson

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a bumblebee on a leaf.

Bumblebee

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Bill Dean. Used with permission.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a leafcutter bee on a White Upland Goldenrod flower head.

Leafcutter bee on White Upland Goldenrod.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Diana Bizecki Robson

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a sweat bee on a Smooth Fleabane flower head.

Sweat bee on Smooth Fleabane.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Diana Bizecki Robson

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a flower fly on Golden Alexander flowers.

Flower fly on Golden Alexander.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Bill Dean. Used with permission.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a flower fly on an aster flower head.

Flower fly on aster.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Bill Dean. Used with permission.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a blow fly on a Narrow-leaved Sunflower head.

Blow fly on Narrow-leaved Sunflower.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Diana Bizecki Robson

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Like all animals, pollinators need food (nectar and/or pollen), and water. Plants may provide enough water in their nectar to meet the needs of some pollinators. Access to salt and nesting habitats are also important. Nesting habitats vary considerably and include bare patches of soil, holes or cavities in rocks or wood, abandoned animal burrows, mud, wetlands or dead vegetation.
Like all animals, pollinators need food (nectar and/or pollen), and water. Plants may provide enough water in their nectar to meet the needs of some pollinators. Access to salt and nesting habitats are also important. Nesting habitats vary considerably and include bare patches of soil, holes or cavities in rocks or wood, abandoned animal burrows, mud, wetlands or dead vegetation.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Photo of the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve, Manitoba in August.

Tall Grass Prairie Preserve, Manitoba in August. Pollinators require access to flowering plants throughout their adult lives to survive and reproduce.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Diana Bizecki Robson

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a Monarch caterpillar on a Showy Milkweed leaf.

Monarch caterpillar on Showy Milkweed. Insect pollinator larvae can be vegetarians that eat plants, carnivores that eat other animals, or coprophages that eat feces.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Diana Bizecki Robson

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Photo of a bee nesting site in Spruce Woods Provincial Park, Manitoba.

Bee nesting sites, Spruce Woods Provincial Park, Manitoba. Many bee species require some bare soil to dig their underground nests.

The Manitoba Museum
Photo: Diana Bizecki Robson

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.


Description:

Using the information and resources in this learning object collection and the main Prairie Pollination website, students will conduct independent or group research to: identify the possible causes of the decline of wild insect pollinators of food crops, explore possible solutions to help these declining populations recover, or take a closer look at the kind of impact humans have on wild pollinators and their environment. This project will challenge students to identify gaps in our current knowledge on pollination ecology. They will design a pollination experiment that states a current problem and proposes a method to study it.

Method:

1. Review existing information

Using the information provided in this learning object collection, explain to students the role of pollinators in crop production and the implications of this, for example, that one in every three bites of food depends on a pollinator. Have the class watch the Prairie Pollination, The Value of Fescue Prairie, Webs of Western Silvery Aster and The Manitoba Museum Collections Vault videos.

2. Class discu Read More
Description:

Using the information and resources in this learning object collection and the main Prairie Pollination website, students will conduct independent or group research to: identify the possible causes of the decline of wild insect pollinators of food crops, explore possible solutions to help these declining populations recover, or take a closer look at the kind of impact humans have on wild pollinators and their environment. This project will challenge students to identify gaps in our current knowledge on pollination ecology. They will design a pollination experiment that states a current problem and proposes a method to study it.

Method:

1. Review existing information

Using the information provided in this learning object collection, explain to students the role of pollinators in crop production and the implications of this, for example, that one in every three bites of food depends on a pollinator. Have the class watch the Prairie Pollination, The Value of Fescue Prairie, Webs of Western Silvery Aster and The Manitoba Museum Collections Vault videos.

2. Class discussion

Have a class discussion and consider some issues around pollination. What impact does human activity have on crop pollination? What are some examples of this? What alternatives could there be if crop-pollinating insect populations decline? What do scientists have to say about this? Part of the problem is that there hasn’t been a lot of research conducted yet-scientists simply don’t know much about it.

3. Student selection of study topic

Working independently or in small groups, students will choose and examine one of the problems that were identified in the class discussion on the declining populations of wild pollinating insects. They will conduct a literature review and propose an experiment to better understand the reason for this population decline. The Resources section of the Prairie Pollination website has some suggested references.

4. Review the scientific method

Download the “Introduction to the Scientific Method” in this learning object collection to review and discuss. The students should design their experiment using the scientific method. This helps to create a manageable experiment that should be clearly laid out and repeatable by another person.

5. Write up your experimental procedure

The experimental procedure can be written up as a paper and/or presented to the class as a poster or oral presentation. Possible topics include:

a. Identifying of the most important wild pollinators of a particular crop plant;
b. Determining whether cropland close to nature preserves is more productive than cropland without a preserve nearby;
c. Determining the impact of wildflower restoration adjacent to cropland;
d. Determining the impact of pesticide spraying on pollinator populations;
e. Determining whether honeybee colonies promote the spread of mites or diseases to wild bees.

Summation

6. Conclude the lesson by discussing as a group, what sorts of actions are needed to address the problem and if there is anything they can do personally to help protect pollinators.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.

The scientific method is a procedure that scientists use to answer a question that they have about the natural world. Once a scientist has identified a question that needs answering, they need to design an experiment that will answer the question. Just like a real scientist, you will design an experiment to study something you are interested in.

Step 1 – Ask the right question

The first step involves learning more about a topic of interest to determine what scientists have already discovered. Research your topic using the Prairie Pollination website-in particular the Resources section-the internet, books and/or journals. What work has already been done in this area? What might you need to know more about in order to solve the problem? Make sure to explore all the different angles. Analyze and clearly identify a problem. Can it be broken down into more than one component or sub-problems? What tentative solutions might there be? List ideas and possible solutions you have discovered in your research. Will any of them work as a possible hypothesis?

Step 2 – State your hypothesis

A hypothesis is an educated prediction Read More
The scientific method is a procedure that scientists use to answer a question that they have about the natural world. Once a scientist has identified a question that needs answering, they need to design an experiment that will answer the question. Just like a real scientist, you will design an experiment to study something you are interested in.

Step 1 – Ask the right question

The first step involves learning more about a topic of interest to determine what scientists have already discovered. Research your topic using the Prairie Pollination website-in particular the Resources section-the internet, books and/or journals. What work has already been done in this area? What might you need to know more about in order to solve the problem? Make sure to explore all the different angles. Analyze and clearly identify a problem. Can it be broken down into more than one component or sub-problems? What tentative solutions might there be? List ideas and possible solutions you have discovered in your research. Will any of them work as a possible hypothesis?

Step 2 – State your hypothesis

A hypothesis is an educated prediction about how you think the natural world will respond (or has responded) to a particular treatment or condition. A null hypothesis, which is the opposite outcome of the hypothesis, is also needed. The null hypothesis implies that the treatment or condition will have or has no effect. Make your own hypothesis. Be as clear and concise as possible. Here is a sample hypothesis and null hypothesis:
Hypothesis: Placing bee nesting boxes around crop fields will increase the abundance of crop pollinators.
Null hypothesis: Placing bee nesting boxes around a crop field will have no impact on the abundance of crop pollinators.

Step 3 – Design an experiment to test your hypothesis

During this step you need to determine how to test which of your hypotheses reflects reality. Your study may be experimental, where you apply a treatment (e.g. nest boxes), or observational where you select study sites that have natural environmental differences (e.g. sandy soil vs. clayey soil), or that have been managed differently by other people (e.g. comparing pollinators on an organic vs. a conventional farm). Things to consider when designing your experiment include:

· What the control and treatments/conditions are;
· How to control variables that may influence the results, for example, soil type, crop type, soil moisture, location, etc.;
· What you will measure, for example, seed production, insect diversity, insect abundance, insect visitation to flowers, etc.
· How to ensure your experiment is replicable, for example, you should plan for more than one study plot.

If a scientist receives funding for their research, they will carry out the remaining steps in the scientific process including:

-Conducting the study and collecting data;
-Analyzing the data;
-Determining which hypothesis was correct and why; and
-Writing a paper for peer review and publication in a scientific journal.

© 2013, The Manitoba Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
-understand the value of wild pollinators for crop production;
-learn which Canadian crops benefit from pollination;
-learn which wild pollinators are the most important for crop production;
-understand that wild pollinator conservation requires protection of their habitat;
-understand the scientific method and how it is used to solve real problems;
-explore current literature on wild pollinators and crop production.

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