Date of Completion

2017

Document Type

Honors College Thesis

Department

Environmental Studies

Type of Thesis

Honors College, Environmental Studies Electronic Thesis

First Advisor

V. Ernesto Méndez

Second Advisor

Brendan Fisher

Third Advisor

Charles Nicholson

Keywords

bees, pollinators, mass flowering crops, crop diversification, berries

Abstract

Floral resource continuity is an important component in pollinator conservation. Mass blooms early in the season may bolster pollinator communities on sequentially flowering crops by creating a resource pulse in an agricultural landscape. This study seeks to understand if mass flowering crops in polycultural systems can be used to simultaneously conserve pollinators and benefit farmers. To understand if these systems can be used to inform conservation policy, we are also interested in learning why farmers establish polycultures to begin with. A mixed-methods approach was used to address the following research questions: 1) do farmer’s motivations for diversification align with the principles of diversity described by agroecological theory? And 2) do early flowering crops (Vaccinium corymbosum) affect the abundance and diversity of native pollinators (Hymenoptera: Apoidea) visiting later season crops (raspberry, Rubus cv.)? A sample of nine Vermont berry farmers were interviewed about the crops they grow, why they chose polycultural systems, and their potential benefits. Ecological data was collected from 14 Vermont berry farms, 8 of which grew blueberry and raspberry crops, and 6 of which only grew raspberry. We found that farmers most commonly reported reasons for diversification that aligned with agroecological principles of diversity. Additionally, we found no significant relationship between pollinator abundance and diversity on sequentially flowering crops between the two farm treatments. We conclude that follow-up studies are necessary to determine if mass flowering crops can be used as a sustainable pollination management practice and whether or not farmers would be interested in adopting this practice.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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