Effects of Pest Management and Conservation Plantings of Bee Communities in Highbush Blueberry

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2013: $9,962.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Grant Recipient: Michigan State University
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Rufus Isaacs
Michigan State University

Information Products


  • Fruits: berries (blueberries), berries (other)
  • Animals: bees


  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, indicators, wildlife
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Soil Management: soil analysis

    Proposal abstract:

    The proposed research project, “Effects of pest management and conservation plantings on bee communities in highbush blueberry,” will explore the effects of pest management program intensity and wildflower plantings on native bee communities present on highbush blueberry farms in western Michigan, in order to identify best use practices for managing pests and conserving beneficial insects on Great Lakes fruit farms. Developing pest management guidelines that minimize risks to native bees will be important for maintaining stable and sufficient crop pollination services for Midwest specialty crop production, especially as honey bee populations decline and hive rental prices increase. We will revisit 15 blueberry farms sampled for bee community composition from 2004-2006 to assess the short- and long-term effects of insecticide program intensity on the bee community foraging on highbush blueberry during bloom. In addition, we will intensively sample four farms with wildflower plantings adjacent to blueberry fields using soil emergence traps, in order to determine whether wildflower plantings can enhance nesting by soil-nesting bees. We will develop printed and electronic educational materials and lead a series of workshops and trainings on how to minimize risk to beneficial insects from pest management practices in Great Lakes specialty crops. We will use before and after surveys of fruit growers attending the 2013 and 2014 Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable, and Farm Market EXPO to assess progress toward adoption of best practices for beneficial insect conservation, including reduced use of broad-spectrum insecticides during or near bloom and increased adoption of on-farm wildflower plantings.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The long-term goals of our project are to minimize the environmental hazards associated with the use of insecticides in highbush blueberry, and identify best practices for conservation of native bees on blueberry farms. Our short-term objectives are to:
    1) Assess how the intensity of insecticide applications affects the abundance, diversity, and richness of native bees foraging on highbush blueberry.
    2) Determine the effects of wildflower plantings on ground-nesting bee communities.
    3) Develop educational resources on how to minimize the effects of pest management activities on beneficial insects.

    Our audience is fruit growers – mainly blueberry, but also apple, cherry, pear, and grape producers - in western and northern Michigan. Intermediate-term goals include increasing grower knowledge and awareness of the risks of insecticide use to beneficial insects, the benefits of using precision application equipment and IPM techniques to minimize drift and off-site movement, and the benefits of conservation plantings for maintaining abundant and diverse on-farm bee communities. In addition, our outreach work will increase knowledge and awareness of conservation programs – particularly the CRP-SAFE pollinator habitat restoration program – to help defray the costs of installing wildflower plantings.

    Long-term goals include reducing the use of broad-spectrum insecticides during or near bloom, increasing adoption of bee-safe application practices (including the use of precision technology and evening/night application timing), and increasing the adoption of conservation plantings through the CRP-SAFE pollinator habitat restoration program.

    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.