CORNELL (US)—Bees—key pollinators for one-third of all plant food crops—have declined over the last 50 years, with die-offs in recent years stumping scientists and making headlines.

A $1.5 million National Science Foundation (NSF) multi-institutional grant will consolidate data from 10 natural history bee collections across the United States and enter them into a searchable, publicly available online database.

The data will allow researchers to assess past and present distributions of bee species, help establish conservation status of species, and better predict global risks to bee pollination services from climate change, habitat loss, and more.

“This grant was funded, in part, because of concerns about declining honey bee populations across the U.S.,” says Bryan Danforth, entomologist at Cornell University.

“There is more and more interest in the role that wild bees are playing in crop pollination across the country, and this project will make available collection data on bee distributions, phenology, and host-plant preferences via a centralized Web site.”

Cornell’s estimated 250,000 specimen collection is included in the database, as are collections from Rutgers; University of California at Berkeley, Davis, and Riverside; University of Connecticut; the American Museum of Natural History; the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service Bee Biology; the Systematics Lab at Utah State University; the California State Collection of Arthropods; and the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum.

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