Pollinator Forage Development

2012 Annual Report for FW11-005

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2011: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Western
State: New Mexico
Principal Investigator:
Heather Harrell
For the Love of Bees
Les Crowder
For the Love of Bees

Pollinator Forage Development

Objectives/Performance Targets

In the first year of the project we will plant out a diversity of annual, biennial and perennial species as windbreaks, cover crops and edible crops. We will observe the bloom times and nectar yields of the annual plants in the first year. We will note the preference of various pollinator species, as well as overlapping or competing bloom times.

In the second year, we will observe and make notations on the perennial or biennial plants which come into bloom, again with an eye to developing a plant list which will include a continuous bloom cycle. We will also continue to experiment with new annual plantings in the second year.

In the third year, we hope to see some further results from perennial plantings, although we understand that this project may include some longer-term research, as some trees may take longer than three years to bloom. Annuals will continue to be planted.

At the end of each year, we will have compiled data that will help us create a comprehensive plant list. The list will include useful plants for cover crops, windbreaks and market crops, all of which also contribute forage for pollinators.

During these three years, we will teach and conduct classes on-site to show beekeepers and interested visitors how the pollinators are responding to the various plantings. We will also develop our website to include photos and descriptions of particularly useful species that we recommend.

At the end of the three years, we hope to publish a booklet on plant species for pollinator forage that includes details on bloom time, nectar yields, usefulness as windbreaks, covers or edible crops and observations on which pollinator species respond most to each plant species.

Performance Targets:

Farm Tour 2012

We had over 100 visitors to our farm as a part of our annual farm tour this year. We walked them throughout the property, highlighting important plants and speaking about honeybees and their needs and preferences. See the photos below of forage plants in bloom on the day of the tour.

Integrated Pest Management Walk 2012

The NM Organic Commodity Commission chose our farm to do an Integrated Pest Management Walk, with Western SARE grant recipient Tess Grassewitz leading the tour with discussions of various pest pressures and how to develop beneficial insect populations on farm to help with pest management. She loved our farm and felt it was the best example of a balanced approach to IPM that she had yet seen in NM. Below you will find photos from this event.


Developing our farm as a demonstration site for pollinator forage:

In 2011, the first year that we received grant funding, we purchased over 40 trees, a diverse selection of blooming shrubs and cover crop seed in order to begin developing our farm for pollinator forage species. We chose a wide array of species, some of which we knew would be effective forage plants and others that were experimental. 2011 was a year of much manual labor establishing the plantings, making sure everything had water and hoping for the best. The spring of 2012 came after a fairly dry and cold winter, and we were very happy to see that almost all of the plantings had survived. We have held classes and farm tours on our site in both 2011 and 2012 with great success. Students and visitors routinely carry notebooks and jot down the many species of plants they see blooming on the land. We have also dispersed flyers listing plants for pollinators in all of our classes. Furthermore, we have published a book and instructional DVD this year, both of which include sections on planting for pollinators.

Please see the photos below of the plants blooming in the summer of 2012.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

There is a great deal of interest from both the farmer/grower community, as well as in the general public in knowing how to contribute to the health and success of pollinator species. The media describing the threats to pollinators has been strong in the last few years, mobilizing a large force of people who want to help. The information we are developing with our project has already affected hundreds of people, if not thousands (through our book and DVD), and we are confidant that we are having a positive impact on awareness and education about how to improve pollinator habitats through our work.

It was very exciting to have Tess Grassewitz come and speak at our farm about Integrated Pest Management practices, as most of the people in attendance were farmers, and many of them expressed having learned a great deal throughout the day. It is wonderful to think that more farmers will be integrating pollinator habitat into their farm plans and using organic methods rather than chemical methods on their farms.

With our continued work, including developing our website more thoroughly to include a page on planting for pollinators, we expect to spread the word into a wider and wider circle of community, hopefully changing a significant amount of landscape in favor of pollinators.

We also expect to see much higher nectar yields from our property in the future and hope that planting forage for honeybees will become a widely accepted practice on farms with apiaries into the future. By increasing yields in home apiaries, beekeepers can avoid having to transport their hives to temporary blooms, thus saving fossil fuels and valuable resources by not having to move their bees.

Remaining Work

We continue to plant more annual forage species each year in the form of cover crops. We have yet to develop our website with a page detailing plant species for pollinators and plan to do this work in 2013. We will continue to disseminate information on the plants that show the greatest success as forage in our ongoing classes and farm tours.


Joran Viers

County Project Manager/ Agricultural Agent
Bernallillo County Extension Service
1510 Menaul NW
Albuquerque, NM 87107
Office Phone: 5052431386