The Current Topics in Biology Seminar Series continued on March 27 with Dr. Kimberly Russell’s, assistant professor in the department of ecology, evolution and natural resources at Rutgers University, presentation on “Meeting Bees’ Needs: Increasing the Conservation Value of Powerline Corridors for Pollinators Through Vegetation Management.”

When most people think of bees they picture honeybees and bumblebees. However, those are only two over of 25,000 species of bees in the world. Of those, there are anywhere between 350 and 450 species of bees in New Jersey. Russell explained that most species of bees are not social and do not live in hives. While all bees pollinate, not all produce honey that can be harvested. Bees also come in a variety of colors and sizes, but despite these differences, all bees are vital pollinators.

Kimberly Russell lecturing.
Kimberly Russell talked about the importance of bees at the latest Topics in Biology Seminar Series.

“They are the most important animal pollinators of both native and cultivated vegetation in the world,” Russell said. Without bees, the amount of food crops would be drastically reduced. “They are incredibly important in terms of supplying food to the world,” she said of bees. While some crops can self-pollinate and there are other animals that pollinate, the majority of pollination is done by bees and the waning number of these insects is alarming.

According to Russell, there is a decline in the global bee population. This is a major environmental problem because not only are bees needed for crop growth but they are also a source of food for a myriad of other animals. If the number of bees keeps decreasing, not only will the world’s supply of crops decrease but a significant number of other animals that eat insects will be impacted. In addition, plants that rely on bees for pollination will be at risk of becoming extinct if the bee population keeps decreasing.

The good news is there are things that we can do to help the bees. Encouraging native plants to grow provides food for bees, and eliminating pesticide use also helps.

Russell studied the areas of land underneath and around powerlines in Maryland that were consciously planted with native plants and used environmentally safe herbicide to get rid of invasive species. These areas are perfect for bees because they provide safe, protected areas for the insects to live and eat. Russell and others are currently working to encourage all power companies to create bee-friendly habitats beneath power lines to help the bee population thrive once more.