Soil properties and biochemical composition of ground-dwelling bee nests in agricultural settings

Rebecca A. Lybrand, Jennifer Fedenko, Malak Tfaily, Sujaya Rao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Soils deliver under-recognized ecosystem services by supplying habitat for ground-dwelling pollinators, such as wild bees and other organisms, that pollinate 80% of insect-pollinated plants and play a critical role in securing resilient pollination provisions. Our objective is to identify soil properties of ground-nesting bee nests in agricultural settings of western Oregon. We confirmed ground-nesting bee and sand wasp activity in seven agricultural sites and one recreational park. Soils from 17 bee and sand wasp nests were analyzed for pH, particle size distribution, and carbon and nitrogen content. We visually confirmed that eight of the nesting bees were sweat bees from the Halictidae family and identified a captured bee specimen as Lasioglossum (Dialictus) (Hymenoptera: Halictidae). We located two sites with sand wasps where specimens were identified as Cerceris and Bembix (Hymenoptera: Crabronidae). The organic matter composition of three soil samples scraped from the linings of active nests was assessed using Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FTICR-MS). The FTICR-MS results identified unknown lipid compounds in the nest soil samples, which we hypothesize are waterproofing lipids secreted to line cell walls. Bee nests occurred in slightly acidic, bare-ground soils with low rock/vegetation coverage and low organic carbon content (<1%) and exhibited significantly higher silt-plus-clay fractions (>80%) vs. data published for bee nests in prior work. Our findings present important implications for textural controls on nest site selection in wet, cool environments and demonstrate the importance of integrating soil properties to improve our understanding of ground-dwelling organisms and associated soil habitats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1139-1152
Number of pages14
JournalSoil Science Society of America Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science


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