Wild bees provide vital pollination services for many native and agricultural plant species, yet the landscape conditions needed to support wild bee populations are not well understood or appreciated. We assessed the influence of landscape composition on bee abundance and species richness in apple (Malm spp.) orchards of northeastern Wisconsin during the spring flowering period. A diverse community of bee species occurs in these apple orchards, dominated by wild bees in the families Andrenidae and Halictidae and the honey bee, Apis mellifera L. Proportion of forest area in the surrounding landscape was a significant positive predictor of wild bee abundance in orchards, with strongest effects at a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) buffer distance of 1,000 m or greater. Forest area also was positively associated with species richness, showing strongest effects at a buffer distance of 2,000 m. Nonagricultural developed land (homes, lawns, etcetera) was significantly negatively associated with species richness at buffer distances >750 m and wild bee abundance in bowl traps at all distances. Other landscape variables statistically associated with species richness or abundance of wild bees included proportion area of pasture (positive) and proportion area of roads (negative). Forest area was not associated with honey bee abundance at any buffer distance. These results provide clear evidence that the landscape surrounding apple orchards, especially the proportion of forest area, affects richness and abundance of wild bees during the spring flowering period and should be a part of sustainable land management strategies in agro-ecosystems of northeastern Wisconsin and other apple growing regions.
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