On-farm conservation of native bees: Understanding the barriers to implementation and assessing viability in WI cranberry

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2010: $9,970.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Grant Recipient: University of Wisconsin
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Claudio Gratton
University of Wisconsin, Dept. Entomology

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: berries (cranberries)


  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, wildlife

    Proposal abstract:

    Wisconsin is the top producer of cranberries in the country. Given that cranberry is pollinator dependent, growers spend thousands of dollars each year renting honey bees. Recent declines in honey bees have made colonies more expensive, threatening the long-term sustainability of this practice. Native bees also pollinate cranberries. Unfortunately, their populations are in decline due to habitat fragmentation, intensified agriculture, and agri-chemical exposure. Through on-farm conservation practices growers can protect and enhance native bees while harnessing their pollination services. While funding is available for on-farm conservation, participation among Wisconsin cranberry growers has been nearly non-existent. Therefore, the goals of this research are to (1) understand the barriers in awareness, attitude, and feasibility that prevent implementation of these programs (2) demonstrate the effectiveness of on-farm conservation By conducting a statewide grower survey I will better understand why native bee conservation practices are not being put into practice. The results will be used to adapt current management recommendations to increase grower participation while addressing grower needs and concerns. To illustrate the value of on-farm conservation, I will monitor bees and floral resources at a demonstration plot. Through educational materials and presentations at grower meetings and field days, I will increase grower awareness about native bees and their resource requirements. Participation in on-farm pollinator conservation programs could reduce growers’ dependence on external sources of pollination, enhance local populations of native bees, and provide a model for other pollinator-dependent crops in the Upper Midwest.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Project Outcomes. The target audience for this proposal is the Wisconsin cranberry grower community. While individual growers are ultimately responsible for their farm management decisions, informed research and policy will help direct more sustainable and environmentally sound farming practices. Outcomes of this project are expected to change cranberry grower awareness and attitudes regarding native bees in the Wisconsin cranberry system Additional audiences that will benefit from this project are the organizations, institutions, and agencies that conduct research and inform policy related to sustainable cranberry production.

    The expected short-term outcomes of this project are to provide growers with increased knowledge about native bees, an ability to identify native bees from non-bee insects, and a general understanding of the resource requirements of native bees. I will achieve these outcomes by creating informational pamphlets for growers, participating in on-farm field days at the pollinator habitat demonstration plot, and presenting my research results at the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association Annual Cranberry School (“Cranberry School”).

    The expected intermediate-term outcomes, resulting from growers outreach and education, are a better understanding of the barriers preventing the implementation of native pollinator habitat and a shift in farm management practices among cranberry growers. I expect to gain a better understanding of why native bee conservation practices are not currently being put into practice, which will enable the non-grower research and policy community to make more effective decisions and policies. In addition, I expect growers to adopt management practices that minimize negative impacts on native bees, including providing increased seasonal floral availability on and around cranberry marshes and adopting bee-friendly irrigation and spray schedules.

    This project is expected to lead to the long-term outcome of wide-spread implementation of pollinator habitat plantings and the prioritization of native bee protection in all farm management practices in Wisconsin cranberry. This would include management
    activities ranging from pest management to the creation of new marshes. While this outcome may not be realized in the short duration of this project, the proposed activities will support the development of a long-term sustainable pollination management plan for cranberry growers.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.