Promoting Pollinators on Maryland’s Working Landscapes
The proposed project addresses native pollinator populations on 12 CSA farms including ten from across the state of Maryland, one in Pennsylvania and one in West Virginia. The purpose of the project is to assess the current status of native bees in agroecosystems and provide baseline data so that research on declines and recovery efforts have benchmarks for comparison. Additionally, the research investigates adjacent habitat to agricultural fields and its influence on pollinator presence within vegetable and cucurbit plots. The results will provide information that farmers can use to guide the management of adjacent lands for pollinator foraging and nesting habitat thereby improving pollination visitation and crop productivity.
It has been suggested that the promotion of native pollinators on agricultural lands can bridge the conservation and food sectors of society because their presence and associated habitat directly benefits both agricultural productivity (through pollination of crops) and ecosystem services (through providing pollination services for uncultivated plants and as members of diverse ecological communities and food webs). Certain pollinator populations are threatened globally due to habitat fragmentation and alteration, misuse of pesticides, infestations of parasites, and disease. Localized population declines have prompted interest on the part of various stakeholders in restoring and maintaining pollinator-friendly habitat on working landscapes, particularly private agricultural lands. This research evaluates opportunities for promoting pollinators, in particular, wild bees, on agricultural lands.
Land use change, introductions of nonnatives and misuse of pesticides will continue to threaten native pollinators in the short term. Properly designed and managed, pollinator recovery projects could invite participation from agricultural producers through proper incentive schemes that would help to reduce further impact on pollinator species and likewise augment population growth where appropriate. Before decline can be assessed and restoration efforts can be evaluated as successes or failures, however, an understanding of the present status of native pollinator populations is required. The proposed project will contribute to that understanding by way of measuring native pollinator diversity on several CSA farms in and around the state of Maryland.
During the summer of 2005, we surveyed 12 farm sites in each of June, July and August and collected bees and other insects in painted fluorescent pan traps. We surveyed habitats including cucurbit crops, other vegetable crops and cut flowers, shrubs, forest edges, meadows and grass lawns.
At all sites combined we collected over 3200 individual bees representing more than 20 genera. Wild bee abundance measures indicate a temporal shift in foraging from woodline flowers to cucurbit crops as the season progresses. On farms with both shrubs and forest edges, bee abundance measures indicate a preference for shrubline foraging over woodline foraging probably due to the differences in density of flowers between the two habitats. Relatively few species were collected in fescue lawn patches compared to crop and natural habitats. Species identifications of collected wild bees are underway to determine differences in diversity among habitats on farms.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
I presented posters describing this research project at the Ecological Society of America’s International Conference on Ecology in an Era of Globalization: Challenges and Opportunities for Environmental Scientists in the Americas, at the University of Maryland’s Bioscience Day, and at the Marine Estuarine Environmental Science Program Annual Symposium. I shared findings with individual participants at the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture annual meeting. During the summer of 2005 I presented my research to the public at two of my farm study sites on public field days. A local boy scout troop (#746) has been involved in learning about wild bees and helping to create bee boxes for farms.
I am scheduled to present a talk on this research project at the Ecological Society of America’s annual meeting in August 2006. This results of this research will also be incorporated into a survey that will be delivered to local sustainable agriculture farmers.
Initial interviews with local vegetable farmers indicate a strong interest in promoting pollinators via habitat manipulation on-farm, however, respondents request evidence of a direct link between native bee diversity and increased crop production and/or quality. Additional experiments to evaluate the contributions of wild bees to vegetable crop pollination are underway.
One Straw Farm
Fresh & Local
Good Fortune Farm
Even’ Star Farm
Avian Mead Organics
Cromwell Valley CSA
Eating with the Seasons