Research

The American bumble bee (Bombus pensylvanicus), a species in decline in North America and listed as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List.

Wild and managed bees are experiencing unprecedented range contractions and loss rates. For example, 13% of New York’s wild bees are known to be experiencing population declines and ~40-50% of the state’s honey bee colonies are lost each year. These numbers are representative of broader trends throughout much of the world. At the same time, pollination services are estimated to contribute approximately $15 billion and $500 million annually to the U.S. and N.Y. economies, respectively. Thus, pollinator declines are troubling from an economic as well as conservation standpoint. Why are bees declining and what can we do about it? What can we learn from fundamental ecological studies, and can this knowledge inform conservation and management decisions? These are core research motivations in the McArt lab. We use tools from chemical, molecular and community ecology to assess how pesticides, pathogens, and ecological context impact pollinator health and the delivery of pollination services.

Current Research

1) Combining empirical data with network modeling to understand disease transmission in plant-pollinator networks

2) Assessing pesticide risk to bees in different agricultural and landscape contexts

3) Assessing the importance of fungicides on pollinator health

4) Understanding how pesticides and pathogens influence the delivery of pollination services to agriculturally important NY crops

Sampling honey bee pollen cells (bee bread) for subsequent analysis of pesticide residues.

Plant-pollinator network of an old field near Ithaca, NY. Highlighted in red are interactions between the western honey bee (Apis mellifera) and the flowers it visits. Figure produced by Chris Myers.