What crop and seed mixes could farmers plant to make their farms more bee-friendly?
That’s a question Bayer CropScience and Pollinator Partnership are trying to answer with a study aiming to give farmers recommendations on what they can do to improve bee habitat on their farms.
Vicki Wojcik, research director for Pollinator Partnership, a non-profit organization focused on improving bee health, says one of the biggest challenges facing bees is finding habitat to forage on.
“What we’re doing in this study is focusing on forage habitat for honey bees and wild bees on farms and trying to build technical guidelines to help farmers understand how they can make choices to help bees,” she explains.
With help from research assistant Laurissa Christie, Wojcik planted seven potential cover crops at the Bayer CropScience research station near Rockwood, Ontario, to determine which are the most attractive for bees. Crops included daikon radish, borage, alfalfa, buckwheat and clover.
More research is required to build technical guidelines for farmers, but Wojcik and Christie have already gleaned insight from the first year of the project, including the fact that honeybees appreciate borage and alfalfa. Christie notes that red clover attracts honey, bumble and carpenter bees, particularly in spring and summer.
Wojcik suggests farmers take the time to walk their fields and look for different species of bees so they know what part of the bee community they need to assist. When the technical guidelines are available, farmers can use them to set goals and make a plan to help out pollinators in their fields.