Michigan Pollinator Project Surveys Planted Habitats

— Written By

IPIPE | 3/27/2019 | March Newsletter

Jacquelyn Albert, working with Dr. Rufus Isaacs and research technician Steve Van Timmerman at Michigan State University, as part of the 2018 Pollinator Habitat Survey, sampled pollinator habitats established by Michigan growers for three insect categories: pollinators, natural enemies and crop pests. She also tested the iPiPE data entry system by using it to catalogue her findings. Many growers are concerned that planting pollinator habitats may create habitat for crop pests as well. Therefore, understanding how these habitats are utilized by beneficial insects as well as pests is important to an IPM approach.

Albert examined six Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA)-compliant pollinator habitats in southwest Michigan located within two miles of agricultural areas, all of which were at least five years old with diverse and established wildflower populations. After sampling for pollinators, pests and beneficials, she found that increased floral abundance was correlated with an increase in the number of pollinators but not with the numbers of pests or natural enemies.

Discussing her research, Albert reflected, “the most interesting thing I observed was the relationship between relative floral abundance and total pollinators observed. I think this clearly demonstrates that when pollinator habitats are successful at producing flowers, they are also successful at supporting pollinators. It was also very encouraging to see that the increase in floral abundance within these habitats was not correlated with an increase in target pest species.”

Albert pinpointed understanding the costs and benefits of pollinator habitats as an area for future research. She also said that the pollinator habitat survey only sampled a few target pest species that were easily identifiable in the field, and that “a great next step would be to research how these habitats influence crop-specific pest populations in adjacent farm land,” since this research focused on the pollinator plantings.

Plant Habitats for Pollinators

One of the six site locations surveyed in Van Buren and Allegan counties in Michigan: Image credit: Jacquelyn Albert