Attract Pollinators To Your Farm

Using attractants such as wildflower mixes and shrubs ensures that bees have access to a steady source of flowering plants to keep them on your farm even during the off season. Photo credit: Rachael Long
Using attractants such as wildflower mixes and shrubs ensures that bees have access to a steady source of flowering plants to keep them on your farm even during the off season. Photo credit: Rachael Long

Pollination is a hot topic these days with the worldwide decline in honeybees and no clear solution in sight. As scientists continue the search for methods to revive dwindling bee populations, growers are still challenged with getting honeybees and other native pollinators to their farms to ensure adequate crop pollination and healthy yields.

Using attractants such as wildflower mixes and shrubs ensures that bees have access to a steady source of flowering plants to keep them on your farm even during the off-season. Furthermore, providing a protected habitat for pollinators to nest helps guarantee they will stay on and revisit your farm season after season.

The Case For Native Pollinators
Native pollinators may provide an added benefit to growers who have traditionally relied on the pollination services of honeybees, says Logan Rowe from the Department of Entomology at Michigan State University (MSU).

“There’s research out there that shows a synergistic effect of having both honeybees and native bees in cropping systems, and this can turn into an increase in crop yields,” Rowe explains.

“By including native bees of different sizes that have different ways of moving around the cropping system, it essentially causes more movement of all of these pollinating insects, and more movement means more flowers being visited.”

Planting wildflower mixes, shrubs, or a combination of the two is an excellent way to attract pollinators to your farm and keep them there. When it comes to flowers, your best bet is to pick flowers that blossom throughout the season to ensure you’re providing a consistent supply of resources.

“A lot of times, growers will have a pulse of resources that are abundantly available, and then they’ll just go away. Bees need a consistent supply of pollen and nectar in order to reproduce and boost their health, and the main way to attract them is to plant flowers,” Rowe says.

Choosing Your Flowers
In the MSU labs, most of the floral enhancements Rowe has seen are placed directly adjacent to the cropping field, which allows pollinators to come out of their native habitat and spill over into the cropping system.

Plants that bloom frequently or that have a high floral area tend to be the most attractive to pollinators, and Rowe cites sunflower, goldenrods, bee balm, and black-eyed Susans, as being some of the most attractive to them.

He also suggests using a seed mix that has plants that bloom during different times of the year and throughout the duration of the summer. Selecting regionally appropriate plants also is key when attracting native pollinators, and Rowe cautions growers not to skip this step.

“Regions do matter, and to what scale regions matter the most is still up in the air. It also has a lot to do with soil types. Some plants do better in sandier, drier soils, and others have good water-retaining abilities. It’s important to recognize the preferred habitat for a particular plant, and use that as a basis to decide whether or not to plant it in a certain area,” Rowe explains.

Using Shrubs
Wildflowers are not the only source of nectar available for pollinators. Flowering shrubs also can be a steady source of nutrition for bees, and Rachael Long, Farm Advisor with University of California Cooperative Extension in Yolo County, has researched their pollination benefits at length.

“My area of work is putting in perennial shrubs that produce a lot of nectar and pollen on field edges so that you’re not taking land out of production. The shrubs aren’t big enough to cause any adjacent competition for light, nutrients, and water for the crop,” Long says.

According to Long’s research, all you need is one strip of plants along one field edge and pollinators will move almost 600 feet into the cropping system.

“Growers that have these edge rows on their farms have higher numbers of beneficial insects and higher numbers of native bees in the adjacent crops. We’ve also documented that you get a little bit better pest control from the natural enemies,” she says.

Different than wildflower mixes, shrubs are permanent plantings; and in California, Long says most growers are using native, drought-tolerant shrubs. They are using a mixture of shrubs including western redbud, coffeeberry, California lilac, toyon, California buckwheat, and coyote brush that are all adapted to California’s dry conditions.

Protecting Their Home
Another way to ensure pollinators are warmly welcomed onto your farm is to provide a habitat for them to nest. Long says there are a variety nesting spaces pollinators may choose including in the ground, twigs, tree logs, and above-ground crevices.

“Leafcutter bees, for example, are going to be aboveground nesters. You’ll also have a lot of belowground nesters like squash bees and sunflower bees that are important, too,” Long says.

For bees that nest belowground, one of the most important things you can do to protect their habitat is refrain from disking it under, she says. Other things to remember include to avoid spraying the nesting area with pesticides, and when you do spray, time sprays for the early morning to avoid impacting the bees when they are out foraging for resources.

Growers also can provide man-made habitats for pollinators such as nesting boxes. In Rowe’s lab at MSU, the nesting boxes are filled with paper straws, which pollinators, such as the mason bee and the leafcutter bee, take residence in.

“If the landowner puts those nesting boxes around the agricultural landscape, it’s possible that bees that are native and are already in the landscape will find them, nest in them, and the following season they’ll emerge ready to do their job,” he explains.

Other ways to provide habitat for bees include providing an area on your farm with bare soil for ground nesting bees and to provide an area with wet ground or mud, as some bees, like mason bees, actually use mud to build their nests, Rowe explains.

Available Funding
If you’re interested in creating a habitat for pollinators at your operation, funding options are available. A major part of the 2014 Farm Bill was aimed at encouraging the development of habitat for native and managed pollinators, and several grant programs have been developed as an offshoot.

The Natural Resources Conservation Services offers opportunities such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which provides financial and technical assistance to growers, helping to offset the costs of implementing conservation practices, which can help protect pollinator habitats.

For a longer list of programs that can provide funding in this area, visit https://is.gd/pollinators.

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

Crop Protection Stories
Laurel wilt-damaged avocado tree leaves
Disease Control
September 15, 2017
Scientist Uncovers Chilling Side of Deadly Avocado Disease
Lab tests indicate laurel wilt pathogen grows faster in the fall and winter. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
September 13, 2017
Get Better Results From Your Biopesticide Program
Softer crop protection programs are becoming a must in specialty crop production. Growers who aren’t learning more about their options Read More
Packinghouse damage from Irma at SWFREC in Immokalee
Citrus
September 13, 2017
Florida Farmers Digging out From Impacts of Irma
Damage reports starting to flood in from the field following monster storm, and it's not pretty. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
September 11, 2017
The Grower’s Take: Citrus, HLB, and Biological Control
Uncle Matt’s Organic orange juice brand has enjoyed steady growth since its 2002 inception. The brand’s success is due to Read More
Insect Control
September 6, 2017
Vegetable Pest Populations Can Soar in High Tunnels, Study Shows
High tunnels alone are not enough to control pest populations, the study shows. To control pest levels, growers need to take other steps that allow ventilation while screening crops, and supporting natural predators. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
September 1, 2017
Dispelling the Rumors: Using Biologicals and Biochemicals in IPM Programs
Whether you’re a grower, packer, processor, or retailer, you have experienced the dramatic shift in consumer preference for sustainable practices Read More
Biocontrols Conference
September 1, 2017
Silicon: a Biocontrol Agent that Boosts Plant Immunity
Quality and profitability are two important factors that drive our agricultural markets. We have fine-tuned our cultivation processes over centuries Read More
CEU Series
September 1, 2017
CEU Series: Protect Crops and the Environment
Pay mind to your surroundings by practicing proper pesticide use. Read More
two-spotted spider mite
Citrus
August 25, 2017
California EPA Seeking to Review Chlorpyrifos
Department of Pesticide Regulation, Office of Environmental Health pursuing health protections. Read More
fall armyworm
Insect Control
August 24, 2017
Stop Fall Armyworm from Getting the Drop on Your Sweet Corn Crop
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods for this notorious pest. Read More
Assorted vegetables
Crop Protection
August 23, 2017
New Biological Fungicide Approved for Fruit and Vegetable Crops
Howler fungicide, developed by AgBiome, receives EPA registration for high-value, specialty crops. Read More
Insect Control
August 22, 2017
Stink Bug Threatens High-Dollar Crops in California
While populations are low, it appears invasive pest has recently stumbled upon the state’s peaches and almonds. Read More
Crop Protection
August 11, 2017
Do Fungicide- and Insecticide-Treated Seeds Boost Weeds?
The University of New Hampshire has received half a million dollars to investigate if seed treatments inadvertently protect weed seeds from its usual predators. Read More
Citrus
August 11, 2017
Field Scouting Guide: Common Lambsquarters
Take a look at these tips for identifying and treating this pervasive weed. Read More
Crop Protection
August 9, 2017
Why Some of the Most Dangerous Potato Diseases are Successful
If you understand the role oxygen, and its lack, plays in potato diseases, you'll be better equipped to battle them. Read More
The Latest
Biocontrols Conference
September 13, 2017
Get Better Results From Your Biopesticid…
Softer crop protection programs are becoming a must in specialty crop production. Growers who aren’t learning more about their options Read More
Citrus
September 13, 2017
Florida Farmers Digging out From Impacts…
Damage reports starting to flood in from the field following monster storm, and it's not pretty. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
September 11, 2017
The Grower’s Take: Citrus, HLB, and Biol…
Uncle Matt’s Organic orange juice brand has enjoyed steady growth since its 2002 inception. The brand’s success is due to Read More
Biocontrols Conference
September 1, 2017
Dispelling the Rumors: Using Biologicals…
Whether you’re a grower, packer, processor, or retailer, you have experienced the dramatic shift in consumer preference for sustainable practices Read More
Biocontrols Conference
September 1, 2017
Silicon: a Biocontrol Agent that Boosts …
Quality and profitability are two important factors that drive our agricultural markets. We have fine-tuned our cultivation processes over centuries Read More
Citrus
August 25, 2017
California EPA Seeking to Review Chlorpy…
Department of Pesticide Regulation, Office of Environmental Health pursuing health protections. Read More
Crop Protection
August 23, 2017
New Biological Fungicide Approved for Fr…
Howler fungicide, developed by AgBiome, receives EPA registration for high-value, specialty crops. Read More
Crop Protection
August 11, 2017
Do Fungicide- and Insecticide-Treated Se…
The University of New Hampshire has received half a million dollars to investigate if seed treatments inadvertently protect weed seeds from its usual predators. Read More
Citrus
August 11, 2017
Field Scouting Guide: Common Lambsquarte…
Take a look at these tips for identifying and treating this pervasive weed. Read More
Crop Protection
August 9, 2017
Why Some of the Most Dangerous Potato Di…
If you understand the role oxygen, and its lack, plays in potato diseases, you'll be better equipped to battle them. Read More
Crop Protection
August 3, 2017
Can Avocados Be Saved from Deadly Laurel…
Scientists from Florida and California are on the case and collaborating. Read More
Crop Protection
August 2, 2017
Report: 90% of NY Beehives Had Varroa Mi…
Cornell University's NYS Beekeeper Tech Team recent report also shows most hives are infected with Deformed Wing Virus (DWV), a disease linked to the mites. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
July 31, 2017
11 New Biocontrol Products You Need to K…
One of the highlights of the Biocontrols Conference & Expo Series is getting an early look at some of the Read More
Crop Protection
July 25, 2017
Vegetable Field Scouting Guide: Diamondb…
Due diligence is needed to help take down this pest of biblical proportions. Read More
Citrus
July 23, 2017
USDA Invests $7.6 Million toward Benefic…
Projects to promote beneficial organisms as part of a pest control strategy. Read More
Citrus
July 12, 2017
Tomato Pests Can Be Induced to Cannibali…
The University of Wisconsin's John Orrock says when beet armyworms are exposed to concentrations of methyl jasmonate, they will abandon eating tomatoes — and start eating one another. Read More
Citrus
July 12, 2017
USDA Pulls 8 Products from Approved Orga…
After a few months of speculation, the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has published its Sunset 2017 final rule on approved products for organic production and handling. Read More
Crop Protection
June 25, 2017
Study Suggests Closer-Proximity Lures He…
Research shows single-trap locations are not as effective as those kept close together. Read More