A Honey of an App

From Minnesota Alumni Magazine Summer 2017

Bee populations are declining across the nation, including on farmland where they are needed to pollinate crops. To help, some farmers are planting wildflowers, a source of nourishment that can help bees survive. But up until now it’s been difficult to know how much those and other efforts may be helping. A new app aims to change that. Eric Lonsdorf (Ph.D. ’04), a lead scientist with the Natural Capital project, a partnership of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, Stanford University, the Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund, and Taylor Ricketts, a bee expert from the University of Vermont, are coleading the development of the app, which is scheduled for release later this year. “The app will do a pollination, productivity, and eventually, a cost-benefit analysis,” Lonsdorf explains. “Farmers can compare scenarios, and then determine which choices bring the best return on investment.” Using aerial images of North America, the app allows farmers to enter their location and different best practices for increasing pollination, including planting flowers, adding windbreaks, and augmenting native bees with honeybees in the field. Researchers hope the app’s combination of science and beefriendly practices will eventually help reverse some bee losses.


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