Friday, January 30, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

He’s a champion of the alternative bee

By
From page A5 | July 10, 2014 |

Neal WilliamsW

Neal Williams is an associate professor of pollination and bee biology in the UC Davis department of entomology and nematology. Kathy Keatley Garvey/Courtesy photo

When it comes to almond pollination, it’s the more the merrier for growers when wild bees work alongside honeybees, says pollination ecologist Neal Williams.

For Williams, pollination isn’t just a buzzword.

“Pollination by bees is a critical input to many crops — as essential as irrigation, fertilizer or labor,” says the associate professor of pollination and bee biology in the UC Davis department of entomology and nematology.

One of Williams’ main goals is to provide practical information to California farmers for improving the long-term stability of pollination. He also wants to promote pollinator conservation and management.

Focusing on “alternative managed” bees, such as blue orchard bees and bumblebees, Williams likes to point out that on a per-bee basis, bumblebees are more effective than honeybees in pollinating tomatoes and watermelons. And the blue orchard bee is used to pollinate California’s No. 1 crop, almonds.

Williams says national and global strategies should be developed to support the diversity of bees and to enhance their habitat, especially with the decline of honeybees and bumblebees.

He cites crucial facts:

* Thirty-five percent of primary food crops benefit from animal pollinators.

* The global value of pollination surpasses $220 billion per year.

* In the United States alone, honeybees account for $14.6 billion, and wild or nonmanaged bees, more than $3 billion.

More effective

Williams was part of an international research team that found that honeybees are more effective at pollinating almonds when other bee species, including the blue orchard bee, are present.

The groundbreaking research — which took place in almond orchards in Yolo, Colusa and Stanislaus counties — “is especially important because it increases the pollination effectiveness of honeybees as demand for their pollination service grows,” Williams says.

The researchers discovered that when blue orchard bees and wild bees are foraging with honeybees in almond orchards, the behavior of honey bees changes, resulting in more effective pollination for “this challenging crop.”

Williams’ research on pollination spans the disciplines of conservation biology, behavioral ecology and evolution. A primary element of his research focuses on sustainable pollination strategies for agriculture. His interest in sustainability, in fact, has made him a core faculty member of the UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute.

That research involves:

* How native pollinators help alleviate the stress on honeybees and also suggests ways to more sustainably manage agricultural systems;
* How farmers enhance habitat and diversify agricultural systems to promote managed and wild bees; and
* Whether pollinators interact in ways to increase the overall effectiveness of crop pollination.
Williams’ past research in the Eastern and Western U.S. helped form the basis for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service planting guidelines to enhance pollinators in agriculture.

Developing bee habitats

Currently, Williams is looking at how landscape affects pollinators.

“Although other colleagues in our region investigate the importance of habitat for bees, we are unique in developing methods to identify best plants for bees and then applying these methods to select the plants,” Williams says.

His lab’s approach involves extensive field data, original computational modeling and controlled experimental testing. They are also testing how the resulting native plant mixes perform in real landscapes.

The Williams lab is working with more than 20 different growers and landowners in California and a variety of different crop types from orchard to row crop.

“We have helped to determine best practices for planting bee habitat, protocols for monitoring pollinator use and developed widely used methods for assessing pollinators’ contribution to pollination service,” he says.

The lab is compiling a database on “Honey Plants of California,” to be posted on the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility website. It will include plant type, common name, genus, species, drought tolerance, honey value, honey color, pollen value and flower color.

Taking his practical findings to the next level, Williams says his next goal is to work with theoreticians to model bee communities and pollination.

Comments

comments

Kathy Keatley Garvey

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Schools give parents tools to help kids thrive

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Suspected Ebola patient being treated at UCD Med Center

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A1

     
    Town hall focuses on Coordinated Care Initiative

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1

    Two more cases of measles in Northern California in children

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Dartmouth bans hard liquor

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A2

     
    Need a new best friend?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    Stanford University to get $50 million to produce vaccines

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Walkers head out three times weekly

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3Comments are off for this post

    Free tax preparation service begins Monday

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

     
    Vote for your favorites in Readers’ Choice poll

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    No bare bottoms, thanks to CommuniCare’s Diaper Drive

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

     
    Storyteller relies on nature as his subject on Saturday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Still time to purchase tickets for DHS Cabaret

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    All voices welcome at sing-along Wednesday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Great Chefs Program will feature Mulvaney

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

     
    February science fun set at Explorit

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A6 | Gallery

     
    Take a photo tour of Cuba at Flyway Nights talk

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6 | Gallery

    See wigeons, curlews and meadowlarks at city wetlands

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8 | Gallery

     
    .

    Forum

    Time for bed … with Grandma

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

     
    A ‘new deal’ for the WPA building

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

    Protect root zone to save trees

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Weigh quality of life, density

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Olive expert joins St. James event

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    We’re grateful for bingo proceeds

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    .

    Sports

    UCD has another tough football schedule in 2015

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Gould’s influence felt mightily in recent Super Bowls

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

    Mustangs hold off UCD women

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    UCD men set new school D-I era win record

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Sports briefs: Watney, Woods start slow at TPC Scottsdale

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2

     
    Sharks double up Ducks

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Recall that first Aggie TV game, national title?

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B8 | Gallery

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

     
    ‘Song of the Sea’ is an enchanting fable

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

    ‘Artist’s Connection’ launches on DCTV

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

     
    Gross’ paintings highlight a slice of Northern California

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A12 | Gallery

    February show at YoloArts’ Gallery 625 is ‘Food for Thought’

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12 | Gallery

     
    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Friday, January 30, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: A9