The Bees’ Needs

K alumna Rachel Mallinger holds a visual presentation for Wisconsin’s Wild Bees
Rachel Mallinger

The power of science in large part is the power of great storytelling. When the stories lead into mystery … well, that’s when science continues, generating more stories and encountering more mysteries. The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Genetics/Biotech center harnesses the power of stories during a public series called Wednesday Nite @ The Lab, occurring every Wednesday, 50 times a year. Attendance is high, and K alumna Rachel Mallinger ’05 will be the featured presenter on Wednesday, March 26. Her topic: “Wisconsin’s Wild Bees: Who Are They, What Do They Do, and Why Should We Conserve them?” Rachel earned her B.A. in biology at K, her M.S. in entomology and agroecology (UW-Madison) and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in entomology at UW-Madison. Wisconsin has more than 500 species of native wild bees, and their contributions to pollination are becoming more and more important as honey bee populations decline. Mallinger’s talk will focus on effect of land use change and farm management on the abundance and diversity of wild bees. “I will also discuss the role of wild bees in crop pollination, and address whether or not they can fulfill our food needs,” she wrote. Mallinger wants to learn more about the roles of insects in agricultural ecosystems and how insects can be managed to enhance the sustainability of farming. She currently studies wild bees and pollination services within fruit orchards. She enjoys working with farmers, experimenting in her own vegetable garden, and cross-country skiing during the winter. At K, Rachel studied abroad in Thailand, and she also mentored a SIP student supervised by Ann Fraser, associate professor of biology. According to Fraser, that student is now applying to Ph.D. programs to work on wild bees. “That will make at least four grads in the last eight years who have done to work on wild bees,” adds Fraser. “I’ll be working with three students this summer on another bee project (looking at the impacts of honey bees on wild bees), and a student organization on campus is starting work on constructing ’buzz boxes’ on campus to improve foraging and nesting habitat for wild bees. Maybe,” grins Fraser,” we need a new college mascot.” The hornet’s probably safe for now.