Land use in the Northern Great Plains region of the U.S. influences the survival and productivity of honey bee colonies

Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
By: , and 



The Northern Great Plains region of the US annually hosts a large portion of commercially managed U.S. honey bee colonies each summer. Changing land use patterns over the last several decades have contributed to declines in the availability of bee forage across the region, and the future sustainability of the region to support honey bee colonies is unclear. We examined the influence of varying land use on the survivorship and productivity of honey bee colonies located in six apiaries within the Northern Great Plains state of North Dakota, an area of intensive agriculture and high density of beekeeping operations. Land use surrounding the apiaries was quantified over three years, 2010–2012, and survival and productivity of honey bee colonies were determined in response to the amount of bee forage land within a 3.2-km radius of each apiary. The area of uncultivated forage land (including pasture, USDA conservation program fields, fallow land, flowering woody plants, grassland, hay land, and roadside ditches) exerted a positive impact on annual apiary survival and honey production. Taxonomic diversity of bee-collected pollen and pesticide residues contained therein varied seasonally among apiaries, but overall were not correlated to large-scale land use patterns or survival and honey production. The predominant flowering plants utilized by honey bee colonies for pollen were volunteer species present in unmanaged (for honey bees), and often ephemeral, lands; thus placing honey bee colonies in a precarious situation for acquiring forage and nutrients over the entire growing season. We discuss the implications for land management, conservation, and beekeeper site selection in the Northern Great Plains to adequately support honey bee colonies and insure long term security for pollinator-dependent crops across the entire country.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Land use in the Northern Great Plains region of the U.S. influences the survival and productivity of honey bee colonies
Series title Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
DOI 10.1016/j.agee.2016.05.030
Volume 230
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Description 11 p.
First page 139
Last page 149
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