Designing farms that support wild bees

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2017: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2019
Grant Recipient: The Pennsylvania State University
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: pollination, pollinator habitat, pollinator health
  • Education and Training: decision support system
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems

    Proposal abstract:

    There is a growing interest and funding available for pollinator conservation on farms, but farmers need guidance on where and how to create and manage pollinator habitat. The purpose of the proposed research is to determine how the diversity and abundance of both wild bee populations and flowering plant species (which bees depend on for nutrition) are impacted by multiple easily measured and managed aspects of the landscape, including landscape land cover, heterogeneity, connectivity, and soil conditions. Because bees forage over areas larger than many Northeast farms, they may have access to off-farm floral and nesting resources, and farmers can take advantage of these resources when considering where and how to create new pollinator habitat. I will measure how plant and bee diversity responds to local and landscape conditions in Lancaster County, PA to predict how farmers’ return on investing in pollinator friendly practices varies based on landscape context and on-farm placement of habitat. The results of this study will be used to develop practical recommendations for farmers, extension staff, and conservation professionals for designing habitat in farms to enhance wild bee diversity, and will be communicated via sustainable agriculture meetings and an interactive design website.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    To develop clear guidelines that farmers can use to design optimal pollinator habitat, we will select 30 sites in Lancaster County, PA, that are evenly distributed between forest, pasture, grassland, arable field, and roadside habitat. Within each of these sites, we will complete Objectives 1-3.

    1. Document plant species abundance and richness (to be completed with existing data and external funds)

    2. Document bee species abundance and richness.

    3. Measure soil moisture, fertility, and organic matter content. Using the data from these objectives, we will complete the following analytical objectives:

    4. Develop predictive models of non-crop flowering plant richness response to habitat type, proximity to water, local soil characteristics, landscape connectivity and land cover heterogeneity.

    5. Develop predictive models of bee species richness response to plant richness, habitat type, proximity to water, local soil characteristics, landscape connectivity and land cover heterogeneity.

    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.