Farming for native bees

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2007: $93,991.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Northeast
State: Delaware
Project Leader:
Dr. Faith Kuehn
Plant Industries Administrator

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: melons
  • Vegetables: cucurbits, greens (leafy)
  • Additional Plants: herbs
  • Animals: bees


  • Education and Training: technical assistance, demonstration, display, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, hedgerows, indicators, wildlife
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, organic agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    Managed honey bee populations, America’s most important managed pollinator, are declining. Their decreased availability and reduced vigor have become a concern of scientists and farmers, since bees are needed to pollinate many fruit and vegetable crops. A pilot survey conducted in 2006 garnered support within the farming community and collected more than 2,500 bees of at least 44 species on 21 cucurbit/mixed organic farms in Delaware and Maryland. ‘Farming for Native Bees’ is a 4-year project (2007-2010) that proposes to survey native bees associated with cucurbit/mixed organic crops in Delaware and make recommendations for management practices that will enhance pollinator populations. The findings, however, will benefit all farmers producing pollinator-dependant crops.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    Performance Target. Of the 105 cucurbit farmers in Delaware/Maryland, 75 will develop an awareness of one or more native bees pollinating their crops. Of this group, 15 will make at least one of the following changes to enhance native bee populations: (a) provide nesting materials (b) modify insecticide programs and (c) land management to improve habitat. At least 3 farmers will sign onto an NRCS conservation program, designed to provide long-term favorable habitat for native bees. At least 2 of the cucurbit farmers will incorporate lessons learned from the project into their agritourism displays to promote public awareness of agricultural conservation. Milestone 1: Seventy-five of the cucurbit farmers attending a conference where the Native Bee project is discussed will express interest in changing on-farm practices to favor bees-early 2007. Milestone 2: Farmers will review the initial field guide and provide feedback-late 2007. Milestone 3: Fifteen farmers will sign up their production areas for the native bee survey, decide which changes are most suitable for their farm and commit to a timetable for farm management changes-early 2008. Milestone 4: Fifteen farmers will respond to a survey and/or participate in a workshop to discuss modifications utilized, review population results, and discuss barriers encountered-late 2008. Milestone 5: Data obtained on native bee populations in 2006-2008 will be presented to NRCS and/or CREP programs and offered to farmers-Jan. 2009. Milestone 6: At least 3 farmers will sign onto an NRCS or Sate conservation program that incorporates native bees-June 2009. Milestone 7: Final evaluation of project-June 2010.

    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.