Airdate: Oct 16, 2020
Scientist: Dr. Kimberly Russell
Turning Junk Land into Bee Habitats
The land beneath powerlines is a prime spot for native bees to thrive.
Bee Powerline Habitat - Junk LandMusic; Ambience: bees in meadow JM: We've all heard about efforts to conserve old growth forests and other natural resources. But what if the land that needs preserving is beneath a power line!? I'm Jim Metzner and this is Pulse of the Planet. Dr. Kimberly Russell of the American Museum of Natural History has been studying the possibility of making the huge tracks of lands beneath our power lines into a habitat for bees. She says most utility companies, particularly in the northeast, do all-out periodic mowing underneath power lines.KR: "The most common management is still just the all out mowing, of getting rid of all the vegetation periodically. We would prefer the method that is less invasive, in the sense that they're just cutting down the tall species and topping the vegetation and using selective herbicides."JM: Dr. Russell says that this kind of management practice creates a unique sort of habitat. Instead of a grassland, you get an area of low-lying shrubs, vines and flowers, where the vegetation stays under six feet tall. In studies, she found that bee populations liked making their nests in this "scrubby" habitat. KR: "My study was on bees. And I found that comparing these two different management techniques that the scrubby habitat was the best for bees, but, there's an awful lot of species that also tend to prefer habitat that happens, after you cut a forest down but before it grows back into forest. And so there's bird species and small mammal species and a number of groups of organisms that like that habitat and surprising as it may sound, that sort of scrubby habitat is actually decreasing in land area in the Northeast and has been for the last decade or two. And so there's actually less and less scrubby habitat. Because what's happening is people are either letting it grow up into forest or they're developing it. And so you don't really have as much of this middle ground anymore. So I think it's more just a matter of trying to get people to see that as not just junk land, as people tend to see it now."JM: We'll hear more about bee-friendly power line habitats in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.