Evaluating native perennial flower strips for supporting native bees and pollination services on farmlands.
We planted flower strips comprised of nine native perennial species at four participating farms in the Gallatin Valley, Montana. We chose plant species with different colors and floral morphologies and with bloom times that would span the entire growing season in order increase the likelihood of providing food for a diversity of bee species. We also chose plants that would do well in agricultural settings with limited water and full sun. We used plugs rather than seeding to hasten flower strip establishment. Wildflower plugs were transplanted in early June (2013) into strips (one per farm) consistent with each sites’ farming methods.
We established experimental crops strips comprised of squash and sunflower plants at each farm to evaluate the effects of flower strips on pollination services to crop plants and determine whether crops are pollen-limited on farmlands.
We sampled the bee community to better understand the diversity and abundance of wild bees on farms and to identify plant species important as food resources for wild bees throughout the growing season. We focused on two sampling methods, hand netting and yellow pan traps, since each target different subsets of the bee community.
We collected seed to evaluate the potential of wildflower strips for native seed production and sales.
A variety of native bees visited flower strips, including bumble bees, digger bees, sweat bees, leafcutting bees, long-horned bees, resin bees, masked bees, and mason bees.
- Plant fact sheets Technical Note
- The Montana State University Magazine: Mountains & Minds, “Sweet Science”
- University Communications: MSU News
- ABCFox MT
- Western Integrated Pest Management Center
This project was supported by the Western Sustainable Research and Education program.