Bees compete for flowers with elk, deer, and cattle

Native bees play a key role in ecosystems by pollinating plants, but on many landscapes in the West, they may face competition from elk (Cervus elaphus), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) and cattle (Bos taurus) that eat some of the same flowering plants on which bees forage for nectar and pollen. A team of researchers is trying to determine what impact grazing might have on native bees.

The decline of honey bees has made a lot of headlines in recent years, said Sandy DeBano, associate professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University, but native bees provide the same sort of pollination services for ecosystems that honeybees provide for agriculture, and many of those species are struggling.

“Some of our native pollinators are declining or becoming extinct,” DeBano said, so it made sense to look at what competition bees may have for the flowers they rely on for nectar and pollen to feed their larvae.

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