- Fruits: apples, berries (blueberries)
- Vegetables: cucurbits
- Animals: bees
- Education and Training: demonstration, workshop
- Production Systems: holistic management
Recent studies have demonstrated the agricultural value of native bees and called for integrated management of honeybees and native bees to secure pollination and enhance crop yields. Despite this, little data exist on the obstacles farmers face to integrating native bees into their pollination management. The project proposed herein will address this research gap through the implementation and evaluation of three native bee workshops for apple, blueberry, and mixed-vegetable farmers in Maine. Each workshop will offer free hands-on training in native bee conservation strategies. Pre/post surveys and in-depth interviews will be used to identify the obstacles to increased use of native bees for crop pollination. This information will inform future outreach efforts aimed at helping farmers overcome potential barriers. Results will be shared with diverse groups of farmers, researchers, and Extension personal through: an internal report for Extension; a factsheet for farmers including case studies of other farmers’ experiences employing native bee conservation practices; a peer-reviewed article; and presentations at five agricultural events throughout the state. This project will build knowledge that researchers can use to better communicate scientific findings related to crop pollination. The most important contribution of this research will be the identification of ways to improve future outreach and education to ensure that farmers have the knowledge and resources necessary to achieve sustainable crop pollination. We aim to help farmers implement bee conservation as a standard, rather than a niche, farming practice.
Project objectives from proposal:
The goal of this project is to identify ways to improve outreach and education for farmers in the Northeast so that they have the knowledge and resources necessary to secure sustainable crop pollination through increased use of native bees. This goal will be accomplished by addressing the objectives listed below. Based on previous
research, we propose seven preliminary hypotheses associated with Objective 2. The results of Objective 2 will impact the recommendation we devise to address Objective 3.
Objective 1: Introduce a minimum of 60 farmers to native bee conservation and utilization strategies.
Objective 2: Document the obstacles farmers face to employing native bee conservation and utilization strategies following the native bee workshops.
1. The four primary obstacles to implementing native bee conservation strategies reported by farmers will be: lack of time, difficulty identify bees, difficulty counting bees, and poor weather conditions.
2. Farmers’ use of “avoidance” strategies (i.e., avoiding cutting deadwood, spraying pesticides during bloom, and mowing wildflowers) will be higher than use of “active” strategies (i.e., installing nesting blocks, planting alternate forage) suggested in the native bee workshops.
3. Farmers will report higher levels of difficulty monitoring bee population size than identifying bees.
4. Farmers will report in the post-survey lower levels of difficulty monitoring bee population size and identifying bees than they predicted in the pre-survey.
5. An increase in use of native bee conservation and utilization practices will not be associated with a decrease in commercial bee rentals.
6. Farmers who have been exposed to crop-specific native bee outreach in the past (i.e. blueberry farmers) will report higher levels of certainty about the contribution of native bees and engage in more native bee conservation and utilization practices than farmers who have not been exposed to this information in the past (i.e. apple and
7. Growers who report high levels of concern with inter-annual variability in bee populations will be less likely to adopt new pollination strategies.
Objective 3: Identify ways to improve future Extension outreach and education programs on native bee conservation and utilization.
Objective 4: Engage in outreach to promote discussion and reflection among researchers, farmers and Extension personnel on the obstacles to integrating native bees into pollination management practices and ways to overcome these obstacles.