Diversified Farming in a Monoculture Landscape: Effects on Honey Bee Health and Wild Bee Communities

Ashley L. St Clair, Ashley L. St Clair, Ge Zhang, Adam G. Dolezal, Matthew E. O'Neal, Amy L. Toth, Amy L. Toth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the last century, a global transformation of Earth's surface has occurred due to human activity with extensive agriculture replacing natural ecosystems. Concomitant declines in wild and managed bees are occurring, largely due to a lack of floral resources and inadequate nutrition, caused by conversion to monoculture-based farming. Diversified fruit and vegetable farms may provide an enhanced variety of resources through crops and weedy plants, which have potential to sustain human and bee nutrition. We hypothesized fruit and vegetable farms can enhance honey bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae, Apis mellifera Linnaeus) colony growth and nutritional state over a soybean monoculture, as well as support a more diverse wild bee community. We tracked honey bee colony growth, nutritional state, and wild bee abundance, richness, and diversity in both farm types. Honey bees kept at diversified farms had increased colony weight and preoverwintering nutritional state. Regardless of colony location, precipitous declines in colony weight occurred during autumn and thus colonies were not completely buffered from the stressors of living in a matrix dominated with monocultures. Contrary to our hypothesis, wild bee diversity was greater in soybean, specifically in August, a time when fields are in bloom. These differences were largely driven by four common bee species that performed well in soybean. Overall, these results suggest fruit and vegetable farms provide some benefits for honey bees; however, they do not benefit wild bee communities. Thus, incorporation of natural habitat, rather than diversified farming, in these landscapes, may be a better choice for wild bee conservation efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)753-764
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental entomology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 13 2020


  • Apis mellifera
  • diversified farming
  • honey bee
  • wild bee

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Insect Science


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