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


    This study set out to document what groups of bees are providing visitation to insect pollinated crops in East Tennessee, and what bees will utilize a number of flowers used as bee food. In 2008-09, bee visitation data was collected on 12 farms and 10 different crops. On one of these farms, UT’s Organic Crops Unit, visitation data was collected for 26 different flowers that could be used in a bee food plot.


    Native bees have been shown to provide significant levels of crop pollination in areas where natural habitat exists (Winfree et al 2007). While in areas of more intensive agriculture, such as found in California’s Central Valley, crop pollination is nearly entirely dependent on the non-native, commercially managed honey bee (Apis mellifera) (Kremen et al 2004). Regardless of whether we consider native bees or honey bees, bee populations in general are in decline. This fact threatens the ecology behind food production (Spivak et al . 2011). It is therefore important to document what bees are providing visitation to insect pollinated crops. To improve the health of bees, numerous strategies are underway including the enhancement of natural habitat for diverse and pesticide-free pollen and nectar sources through establishments of flower plots for bees (Spivak et al 2011). Regional planting guides for bee food plots can be found, however actual tests of the plants are not well developed.

    Project objectives:

    • Study the community composition of bees providing visitation to insect pollinated crops and flowers that could be used in bee food plots
      Determine the importance of native bees in crop pollination
      Determine if the flowers tested for bee food provide food to bees that provide crop visitation
    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.