Evaluation of the Utility of Adding Artificial Bumble Bee Nesting Sites to Increase Pollination Services in a Small Farm Environment

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2011: $9,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Grant Recipient: University of Arkansas
Region: Southern
State: Arkansas
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Allen Szalanski
University of Arkansas

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: berries (other), berries (strawberries)
  • Vegetables: beans, beets, cucurbits, eggplant, greens (leafy), onions, peppers, tomatoes
  • Animals: bees


  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement
  • Production Systems: general crop production

    Proposal abstract:

    With recent honey bee declines impacting managed pollination services, the vulnerability of American agriculture under the dominance of the honey bee has become increasingly apparent in recent years. Many American farms utilize managed honey bees for crop pollination services, yet dependence upon a single, non-native organism for such a crucial service is an unsustainable approach. Maintaining diverse populations of native pollinators is essential to assuring the resilience and sustainability of agricultural systems. Wild populations of native bumble bees freely provide indispensable pollination services which have been shown to surpass those of honey bees in many crops. Bumble bees are generalists, visiting many crops, and their capacity for buzz pollination makes them particularly useful as pollinators. While bumble bees may be excellent pollinators of crops such as tomatoes, there is little information on the seasonal abundance of native pollinators or recommendations for encouraging native pollinators available to farmers in the region. In agricultural settings, suitable nesting sites may be the limiting factor in bumble bee abundance. Providing artificial nest sites may enhance populations on small-scale farms, but this approach has not been formally tested in the American South. This project aims to determine if providing artificial nesting sites will increase the abundance or alter the diversity of bumble bees on small-scale farms. It also aims to determine the relationship between crop bloom times and bumble bee phenology in the region. The results of this research should provide recommendations to farmers seeking to improve fruit set utilizing native bumble bee pollinators.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Evaluate the utility bumble bee nest boxes for increasing the prevalence of bumble bees on small, multi-crop farms
    2. Determine if providing additional bumble bee nesting sites via artificial nesting boxes changes the species diversity and relative abundance of bumble bees
    3. Determine the seasonal abundance of different bumble bee species as it relates to crop bloom times
    4. Develop a set of recommendations for bumble bee nest boxes for farmers in Arkansas

    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.