Developing 4 Mason Bee Species for Pollination of Berry Crops

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2024: $30,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Utah State University
Region: Western
State: Utah
Graduate Student:
Principal Investigator:


  • Fruits: berries (blueberries), berries (brambles), berries (other), berries (strawberries)
  • Animals: bees


  • Crop Production: beekeeping, high tunnels or hoop houses, pollination, pollinator health
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, partnerships, quality of life, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Farmers struggle to achieve
    adequate pollination for many berry crops, possibly in part due
    to the heavy reliance on a single pollinator species: the
    honeybee. We propose the development of additional species of
    bees for managed pollination of berries. This will strengthen the
    sustainability of our food systems while supporting existing
    natural pollinator diversity, and the economic benefits derived
    will improve farmers' lives by increasing profits and easing

    We will investigate the
    application of 4 lesser studied mason bee species on berry farms,
    all with some potential for berry pollination either shown
    through pilot study results, or previous scientific literature.
    We will determine if they pollinate a target crop by ID’ing the
    pollen in their brood provisions and comparing it to crop pollen
    samples. Additionally, we will test these bees' propensity to
    being managed for agriculture by evaluating their nesting success
    and estimating material and labor costs to maintain populations.
    Together these strategies will, 1) Identify which bee-crop
    pairings show potential for future development, and 2) Compose
    recommendations for cost-effective management strategies.

    We will use targeted outreach to
    connect farmers with our research, including: university
    extension publications, short YouTube videos/tutorials, social
    media promotion, and presentations at grower meetings. We will
    partner with bee conservation-focused organizations to promote
    these materials to reach their respective memberships of largely
    bee managers and farmers (Orchard Bee Association) and backyard
    gardeners and bee enthusiasts (Oregon Bee Atlas) to, 1) Improve
    producer and beekeeper knowledge about mason bee management and
    its benefits and 2) Distribute discoveries about mason bee
    pollination of berry crops. 

    This final outcome of this project will be to, 3) Publish on the
    management potential of these mason bees in berry crop systems in
    a peer-reviewed journal.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Research Objective 1: Investigate
    the aptitude of 4 mason bee species to be managed in commercial
    berry crop production using pollen ID.

    Research Objective 2: Examine the
    nesting material preferences of 4 mason bee species to
    cost-effectively balance material attractiveness with management

    Education Objective 1: Increase
    knowledge about mason bee management and its benefits among
    farmers and beekeepers by producing 2 educational videos.

    Education Objective 2: Distribute
    discoveries about berry pollination with mason bees to a broad
    audience of farmers, beekeepers, and backyard gardeners by
    publishing 2 factsheets.

    Education Objective 3: Publish a
    peer-reviewed paper on the management potential of the 4 mason
    bees studied in berry crops.

    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.