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Megan McKerchar

PhD Student

Institute of Science & the Environment

Contact Details

email: m.mckerchar@worc.ac.uk

tel:

Thesis title:  “Enhancing pollination and pest regulation services in apple orchards by supplementing floral resources”

Qualifications
BSc First Class (Hons) Zoology, University College of Dublin
Msc (Merit) Biodiversity and Conservation, University of Leeds 

A picture of a bee on a flower

Megan in an orchard looking at flowering trees

Bees on flowers

Megan is investigating the benefits of introducing wildflowers rows in commercial apple orchards. The project is jointly funded by the University of Worcester, Fruition PO and Waitrose Plc.

A reliable pollination service is essential for commercial apple production. Honeybees are important pollinators, but wild bees can be more effective and efficient. Furthermore, wild pollinators can buffer against environmental change and provide insurance against continued declines in the number of honeybee hives. However, wild bees and hoverflies are declining in Britain and throughout the world, which has been linked to a loss of natural habitat and floral resources. The increased use of insecticides has also contributed to declines; and commercial apple orchards are the second most pesticide sprayed cropping system in the European Union. EU legislation, the fruit industry and supermarkets continue to push towards zero pesticide residues, which has led to integrated pesticide management (IPM) strategies becoming increasingly important.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that wildflower strips improve the abundance and diversity of pollinators and natural enemies. However, this is the first project to investigate pollination and pest regulation services in apple orchards at a one hectare plot scale. Using a pairwise experimental design, this study is examining whether wildflower strips improve pollinators and natural enemies, and the ecosystem service they provide over three years.

Her Master’s project compared land use change and bee and wasp communities using historical data. After completing her Master’s degree, Megan worked on the AGRILAND project with the University of Leeds (funded by Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), The Scottish Government and The Wellcome Trust.). She has volunteered with several NGOs including Wildlife Trust, Burren Beo and BTCV. She is a member of BWARS and Dipterists Forum, and a keen entomologist.

Megan is being supervised by Dr Duncan B. Westbury, Prof. Nick Evans, Prof. Simon G. Potts (Reading University) and Dr Michelle T. Fountain (East Malling Research Institute). 

A  video about the project can be found here