Supporting bees and other pollinators on your farm

Pollinating insects are important to not only the ecosystem of a farm, but are necessary to continue food and seed production.

June 6, 2018 - Author: Drew Perry

A bee pollinating a flower.
Photo by Julianna Wilson, MSU Extension.

Most fruits and vegetables need bees for pollination to increase marketable crop yield and most bee-dependent crops benefit from visits by other types of pollinators. In Michigan alone, over 400 species of wild bees can be found, many of which are important crop pollinators, nesting in and around crop fields. Implementing pollinator stewardship to minimalize pollinators’ exposure to pesticides comes with benefits in a variety of areas.

Growers who attend Michigan State University’s Agriculture Innovation Day: Focus on Fruit and Vegetable Technologies on June 28 at MSU’s Southwest Research and Extension Center in Benton Harbor, Michigan, will learn to dispel the myth that eliminating competing flowers will lead to better crop pollination during the “Pollinators: The Latest Buzz about Bees” session. Instead, attendees will learn how to manage and incorporate more non-crop flowers in order to improve the health and reproductive potential of both managed and wild bees that provide pollination services in fruits and vegetables.

Farms can improve pollinator habitats by  providing season-long floral resources to ensure the longevity of pollinators. Undisturbed land provides nesting sites for some bee species, and infrequently mowed areas can provide resources during the summer and fall seasons. Fruit and vegetable crops are attractive to bees, while many field crops  such as sunflowers, canola, soybeans and buckwheat are habitats to bees while they’re in bloom. Spring blooming plants like Willow, Redbud, and Maple trees can feed bees as well.

When considering a farm’s potential for supporting bees, having more nests means more potential pollinators. Additionally, better nutrition for managed and wild bees that pollinate crops equates to healthier bees that can pollinate better and live longer. Soil management strategies, including flowering cover crops and grasslands, can support bees while helping with erosion control and minimizing nutrient runoff.

Farms that sell products directly to customers, can improve visual appearances and provide a positive environmental message through pollinator habitats and  signage explaining the farm’s goals with respect to pollinator stewardship.

For more information about pollination and habitat support, visit www.pollinators.msu.edu

MSU Agriculture Innovation Day: Focus on Fruit and Vegetable Technologies, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. June 28 at the MSU Southwest Research and Extension Center in Benton Harbor, Michigan, offers a variety of fruit, vegetable and grape growing technologies, including the latest information on pollinators and equipment. The event has been approved for Restricted Use Pesticide Credits (6 credits) and Certified Crop Advisor CEUs in Integrated Pest Management, Crop Management, Soil and Water Management and Sustainability. For detailed session descriptions, visit http://www.canr.msu.edu/msu_agriculture_innovation_day/ or contact Ron Bates at batesr@msu.edu.

Tags: agriculture innovation day, pollination

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