Native Bee Habitat Rehabilitation; Encouraging Greater Adoption of Sustainable Pollination Practices- Part II

Project Overview

ONE10-129
Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2010: $14,254.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Alexandru Surcica
Penn State Cooperative Extension

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Additional Plants: native plants
  • Animals: bees

Practices

No practices identified

Proposal abstract:

A third of the human diet relies directly or indirectly on biotic pollination. Pollinators contribute 9.5% to the global agricultural output, or about $153 billion. In the U.S., the value of pollination services has been estimated at $18.9 billion for honeybees and $3 billion for native bees. Without bees, the flowers of bee pollinated crops will abort or will set small, misshaped, flavorless and quickly perishable fruit. In addition, many wind pollinated crops have better yields when bees augment the pollination process. Currently, honeybees are decimated by a combination of pests, pathogens, and stresses as result of poor management and overexploitation. However, wild bees can successfully pollinate commercial crops by themselves if some farm land is managed as bee habitat with an abundance of floral and nesting resources. Wild bees not only provide free pollination but are active in inclement weather and are more effective in vectoring pollen between flowers than honeybees. This proposal represents the second phase in a three year project and it deals with managing and monitoring the research plots. Through the ‘Native 8ee Habitat Rehabilitation’ project. we will provide the growers of the northeastern U.S. with the applied knowledge of how to rehabilitate the native pollinator habitat. The desired outcome of this research project is to assess the investment needed for having a strong and diverse population of native bees able to fully pollinate the predominant crops. For better understanding the environmental impact of our project, the bee population progress will be monitored bi¬weekly. For that, we will use aerial netting and pan trapping methods. Furthermore, the native bee census will be incorporated into a regional bee database, which will shed more light on the current nation-wide native pollinator crises.

Project objectives from proposal:

This proposal seeks funding for the second phase in a three year project and deals with managing and monitoring the research plots. Our overall goal with this project is to determine the costs and returns per square foot for native bee habitat rehabilitation for farms situated in the northeastern United States. With the knowledge of how to conserve and restore the native bee habitat and the costs needed to do so, farmers will be better equipped in avoiding the lack of or expensive pollination triggered by the ongoing honeybee crisis. Besides a ready supply of on-farm pollination services, by actively managing a population of plants rewarding to native pollinators throughout the year, growers will have a healthy and diverse population of pest predators, reduced farm soil erosion, irrigation water loss and fertilizer runoff, as well as more windbreaks, weed suppression, etc.

To ascertain the costs per square foot of bee habitat rehabilitation, we will be factoring in the time and
funds invested in the initial site survey, planting design and installation, and yearly maintenance. The
returns will be determined by the rate of which the native bees are participating in the crop pollination
process before and after the habitat has reached its full potential. For this we will trap and identify all the bees, native or non native, present on a randomly selected number of crop flowers, in a given time period. Without taking into consideration the value of the environmental services, we will consider that the pollinator value is directly proportional with the value of the crop pollinated. Therefore, the returns estimated minimum value will be equal with the value of crop yields the native bees actively pollinated.

Outcomes of this project will include recommendations for establishing native bee habitats including plant suppliers and a demonstration area to provide ongoing education to growers seeking to establish their own habitats.

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.