Dr. Mario Balzan presented ongoing research at the Ecological Society of America 2023 Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon, focusing on understanding plant-pollinator interactions. The presentation delved into the effects of local and landscape habitats on honeybee and wild bee populations, including the impact of intense honeybee visitation on wild bee groups. Initial findings indicated honeybees’ preference for agricultural areas and their diverse use of floral resources, overlapping with wild bees’ preferences.
Different types of wild bees were associated with various local habitats, with emphasis on agricultural spaces, gardens, and roadside vegetation. On a broader landscape level, the abundance of wild bees correlated positively with arable land, garrigue, grassland, orchards, and urban environments. However, the response of different bee groups to landscape factors varied significantly.
Interestingly, the study highlighted that increased honeybee visits negatively affected wild bee abundance, but not the richness of functional groups. This emphasizes the need for a comprehensive approach, considering habitat characteristics and species interactions to preserve bee diversity and their vital pollination services.
The presentation also covered the ongoing BEEPOLL project, funded by the Malta Council for Science and Technology National Space Fund. This project combines remote sensing data, beehive monitoring, and predictive models to assess floral resource availability and provide insights for effective pollinator and pollination ecosystem management.