Providing habitat for native pollinators and determination of native pollinator contribution to pollination of cucurbits and blueberries at farm sites

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2008: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Grant Recipient: Univ. Tennessee
Region: Southern
State: Tennessee
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Dr. John Skinner
Univ. Tennessee

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: sunflower
  • Fruits: apples, berries (blueberries), melons
  • Vegetables: beans, cucurbits, eggplant
  • Additional Plants: herbs, native plants
  • Animals: bees


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops, multiple cropping, no-till
  • Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Farm Business Management: agritourism, budgets/cost and returns, whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, indicators, riparian buffers, riverbank protection, wildlife
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management, organic agriculture, permaculture
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Pollination of blueberry and cucurbit (watermelon, squash, and pumpkin) plantings will be studied to determine the contribution of unmanaged, native pollinators towards pollination of these crops as compared to European honey bees. Pollination contribution will be measured by flower visitation rates and pollen deposition. Habitat in the form of flowering plants and shelter will be provided for pollinators at some sites to determine if farmers can easily supplement habitat. We will determine if supplemented habitat is utilized by native pollinators and if this increases visits by native pollinators to these farm sites, as compared to sites without supplemented habitat. Recent, industry wide declines in managed honey bee numbers due to new diseases and challenges has increased the cost of renting hives for pollination. Pesticide use has increased within honey bee colonies to control mites and other diseases. In addition, the recent phenomenon of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has called into question the sustainability of relying on the single species of the European honey bee for insect pollination of food crops. Berry and vegetable farms in the southeast are often smaller, family owned farms located in a mosaic landscape of natural, rural, and suburban habitats. Pockets within this mosaic provide beneficial habitat for native pollinators. Investigation into the use of the local ecosystems and supplemented habitat to provide pollination services will promote good stewardship of natural resources with the incentive of providing profitable pollination services to farms.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Determine the contribution of native pollinators to pollination of selected fruit and vegetable crops (blueberries and cucurbits) and compare to the contribution provided by honey bees.
    2. Re-examine blueberry pollination recommendations to destroy native carpenter bee nests on blueberry farms (UGA Entomology Dept. ND). Preliminary data indicates female carpenter bees are less likely to rob nectar then males. Destroying carpenter bee nests at farm sites could be detrimental to pollination since females provision nests with pollen and would be destroyed. Preliminary data also shows that carpenter bees are significant blueberry pollinators in our area.
    3. Determine species of pollinating insects present at cucurbit farms.
    4. Determine the best wildflower mix for establishment of semi-permanent wildflower meadow.
    5. Determine if and how much flower plantings and nesting structures are utilized by native/wild pollinators.
    6. Determine if native pollinator visits to squash flowers can be increased by planting wild flowers and providing nesting structures.
    7. Determine other landscape use factors that affect pollinator density and diversity.
    8. Develop and distribute extension fact sheets, a web site, and publication articles about the importance and contribution of native pollinators in crop systems and recommendations for their conservation and encouragement.

    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.