University of Florida researchers will be part of a nationwide effort to study integrated pollination of specialty crops.
The group, headed by Michigan State University, recently received a five year $9.1 million U.S. Department of Agriculture specialty crop research initiative grant, according to a news release.
The first year of funding is expected to be about $1.7 million.
Florida has more than 310 bee species, including both native and managed species, such as the European honeybee.
During the past few years, colony collapse disorder—a mysterious malady—has taken its toll on honeybee colonies.
Some beekeepers nationwide have reported losing one-third to one-half of their colonies.
Growers of many crops, such as almonds and watermelons, rely on bees to pollinate their crops.
They'll rent hives from beekeepers during the bloom period.
Many beekeepers are migratory, hauling their bees to the South during the winter and making their north during the spring as the crops advance.
Researchers who are part of this national effort will identify factors that affect bee abundance, evaluate farm and habitat management practices, and develop and test native bee populations as to their potential to become managed.
Part of the research will focus on finding native bees that could provide pollination services and be integrated into cropping systems to boost pollination.
In Florida, the specialty crops of interest include watermelon and blueberries.