Improving Pollination in the Southwest: Testing the on farm feasibility of establishing and managing the carpenter bee for multiple crop farming systems

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2000: $32,150.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $6,000.00
Region: Western
State: Arizona
Principal Investigator:
Jim Donovan
Native Seeds SEARCH/University of Arizona

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: corn
  • Fruits: melons
  • Vegetables: beans, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, peppers, sweet corn, tomatoes
  • Additional Plants: tobacco, herbs, ornamentals


  • Crop Production: intercropping
  • Education and Training: display, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, wildlife
  • Pest Management: field monitoring/scouting
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, integrated crop and livestock systems


    Pollination, an essential process ensuring the productivity of agricultural yields, is currently under threat by a myriad of causes, ranging from habitat fragmentation to the overuse of pesticides. Habitats for wild bees (the most diverse and important group responsible for crop pollination) can be improved on and around farms to increase pollination services and prevent potential losses in crop yields.

    The native southern Arizona carpenter bee is being tested as a potential crop pollinator in southern Arizona on a variety of crops and small farms. The carpenter bee visits flowers on melons, multiple varieties of squash, tomatoes, chiles and eggplant.

    Farmers have often used the services of beekeepers to have honeybees pollinate their crops, but due to both the infestation of mites and the invasion of africanized bees many beekeepers have gotten out of the business. Many farmers who may have kept honey bees have also ceased this activity due to the increased risk of getting Africanized bee colonies. Thus, there is a gap in pollination services needed to produce good crops. Many bees native to the Southwest can potentially be used as crop pollinators.

    We are developing techniques/protocols that consist of rearing, housing and managing the carpenter bee. Carpenter bees are large-bodied jet black bees that can be found throughout most of the United States.

    Species in the southwestern United States typically nest in plants in natural habitat that often occurs near farmland.

    In combination of creating habitat and managing bee houses, farmers can guarantee that their crops will get pollinated, resulting in bigger better vegetable and fruit production.

    Project objectives:

    • Develop protocols to be used by farmers for integrating native pollinators into farming systems.

      Translocate and establish viable populations of carpenter bees on farms using fence rows constructed out of sotol, agave and yucca stalks.

      Assess the feasibility of the carpenter bee as a crop pollinator.

      Disseminate information to farmers on the use of native pollinators in farming systems.

    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.