Promoting Native Bee Health and Pollination Services on Diversified Organic Produce Famis

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2015: $24,918.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2017
Grant Recipient: Washington State University
Region: Western
State: Washington
Graduate Student:
Principal Investigator:
Dr. David Crowder
Washington State University

Annual Reports


  • Animal Products: honey


  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, hedgerows
  • Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: public participation, social networks, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration

    Proposal abstract:

    Diversified farming systems that produce many crops throughout a growing system are considered to be more sustainable than monocultures. Native bees are critical for the sustainability of these farming systems, and diversified farms typically achieve significantly higher yields when healthy native bee communities are present. Here we define healthy native bee communities as ones that are abundant, diverse, and stable. However, we have a poor understanding of the suites of practices that promote healthy native bee communities on diversified farms. To address this knowledge gap, we have established a network of diversified produce farms, all of which are either certified organic or use organic practices, to evaluate factors that promote native bee community health and pollination services.Our research objectives are to evaluate the impact of habitat augmentation on native bee community health and pollination services on diversified organic produce farms. We will work with farms located in western Washington, an area highly impacted by urbanization. Indeed, several of our farms are surrounded almost entirely by urban development, while others are located in areas with more natural habitat. This is important, because urbanization has been shown to reduce available habitat for native bees. In turn, strategies that promote native bees need to be effective in this highly-intensified and fragmented urbanized landscape. On participating farms we will provide habitat in the form of flowering plant strips, nesting structures, and bare ground. These three practices promote a diversity of nesting habitats and floral resources for many native bee species. We will evaluate how these augmentation strategies influence native bee community health and pollination services on our network of farms, and how augmentation strategies interact with the surrounding landscape to influence bee health. Our research objectives will be paired with field days and production of a diverse set of educational materials to engage and educate growers on practices to support native bee community health and diversified farming. Moreover, through this project we will initiate a citizen-science project that will inspire community members to actively participate in native bee conservation. This will provide a forum for farmers and community members to come together in an initiative that promotes peer-to-peer learning while also addressing native bee conservation over a broad area. This project was initiated with strong commitments by diversified organic produce farmers to improve native bee community health, and our team will work interactively with these farmers to achieve our goals.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Goal: Explore how habitat augmentation affects native bee communities and pollination services on diversified organic farms in landscapes impacted by urbanization.

    Objective 1: Determine if habitat augmentation expedites the development of abundant, diverse, and stable native bee communities 


    (i) Sub-objective 1a: Establish habitat augmentation treatments on farms


    ·         Build and install habitat structures to support tunnel-nesting bees (February2015)


    ·         Create bare ground on farms to support ground-nesting bees (March 2015)


    ·         Seed floral buffer strips to provide nectar resources for bees (April 2015)


    (ii) Sub-objective 1b: Sample native bee communities (May-September 2015/2016)


    (iii) Sub-objective 1c: Measure the effects of habitat augmentation and landscape intensity on native bee community abundance, diversity, and stability (October-December 2015/2016)


    Rationale: Through this objective we will determine the suites of augmentation practices that promote abundant, diverse, and stable diverse native bee communities on diversified organic farms that are located in landscapes impacted by urbanization.


    Objective 2: Measure the impact of habitat augmentation on pollination services


    (i) Sub-objective 2a: Assess pollination services on farms (May-September 2015/2016)


    (ii) Sub-objective 2b: Explore the effects of habitat augmentation and landscape intensity on fruit set and pollination stability (October-December 2015/2016)


    Rationale: This objective will determine whether augmented native bee communities increase pollination services on diversified organic farming systems.


    Objective 3: Educate farmers and engage community members on native bee conservation


    (i) Sub-objective 3a: Conduct field days to educate farmers about conserving native bees and pollination services (April and Sep 2015/2016)


    (ii) Sub-objective 3b: Establish citizen science initiative on native bee conservation


    ·         Provide citizen scientists with native bee plants and bee “mail boxes” (Jan-Mar 2016)


    ·         Gather data from citizen scientists to assess native bee communities (Apr-Sep 2016)


    Rationale: This objective will facilitate engagement of farmers and other community members on native bee conservation, while also directly engaging the public in conducting research to assess native bee communities.


    Measurable Milestones:


    ·         Characterization of native bee communities on 24 farms (by September 2015/2016)


    ·         Measurement of pollination services on 24 farms (by September 2015/2016)


    ·         Development of educational materials for growers (by January 2016)


    ·         Participation of over 100 farmers at field days (by September 2016)


    ·         Development of a network of at least 50 “citizen-scientists” (by December 2016)


    Future Directions: This project represents the first two years of what will become a much longer-term project. We expect to expand our work on native bee conservation on diversified organic farming systems in urban environments to other states in the western region. Moreover, we will further develop our network of citizen scientists to engage the public in native bee conservation while providing scientific data on native bees across a broad geographic area.

    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.