Around the world, pollinator populations are decreasing due to climate change, habitat loss and fragmentation, invasive species, pesticide use, and disease. A solar prairie can provide that habitat space with native plants to attract and promote the growth of native pollinator populations. In this study at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio, I sought to find out if native pollinators were using the habitats inside and around the solar panels at Curran Place. By using pan traps weekly throughout the summer months to collect the insects, I found that native pollinators are using the habitats between the rows of solar panels and the area outside of the panels with more flowering plants. No invasive honey bees were observed in the prairie. Members of sweat bee families were driving changes between the inside and outside habitats, but larger pollinators like bumble bees and carpenter bees were not. Maintenance, specifically mowing, of prairies is a standard method to keep them healthy and control any invasive species in the area. During week 2 of this research, the area in between the rows of the panels was mowed and led to a significant increase in pollinators in the inside habitat. There was no significant difference between weeks in the outside habitat. The solar prairie is providing a habitat for native pollinators and a renewable energy source for the University of Dayton. Additionally, it is combating some of the major causes of pollinator declines - climate change, habitat loss, and invasive species. The previously manicured lawn of Curran Place is now a biodiverse solar prairie to help increase the populations of native pollinators and solar energy use in the area to lead to a more sustainable future.
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Morgan, Brigid M., "Ain't No Sunshine When They're Gone: Pollinators in a Solar Prarie" (2022). Honors Theses. 370.