California Agricultural Pollinator Project

The California Agricultural Pollinator Project is a first of its kind effort to bring native bees back to large scale agriculture. Through a diverse partnership of non-profits, farmers, and agencies, the California Agricultural Pollinator Project takes the results of several years of research on the habitat needs of crop-pollinating native bees in Yolo County, California and applies that information to working agricultural landscapes.

In 2003 The Xerces Society began a collaboration with scientists from the UC Berkeley, sharing the results of their research on crop pollination by native bees with growers and conservationists throughout California. Early in this effort, the Center for Land-Based Learning (CLBL) and Audubon California’s Landowner Stewardship Program hosted workshops, developed a pollinator habitat demonstration hedgerow at the Farm of Putah Creek, and began to incorporate pollinator conservation measures into their restoration projects throughout Yolo County, California.

Specifically, bees need abundant nectar and pollen throughout the year in order to thrive. To meet this need, project partners are providing a diverse buffet of flowering plants that studies have shown are attractive to native bees. Nest blocks and large areas of consistently untilled soil ensure that native bees have areas to nest. Xerces Society staff are sharing the importance of native bees and findings from this and other relevant studies with farmers, agricultural professionals, and conservation nonprofits working in the Putah and Cache Creek watersheds.

In 2006, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Agricultural Wildlife Conservation Center, the California NRCS State Office and many private foundations provided funding to implement and monitor the effectiveness of pollinator restoration activities on farms throughout Yolo County. Farmers are working with Audubon California’s Landowner Stewardship Program and high school students from CLBL’s SLEWS program to implement site specific pollinator restoration plans for their farms. Scientists from the Xerces Society and UC Berkeley are reviewing these plans and monitoring these restoration sites to document how effective they are in bringing back native bees and restoring pollination services to the landscape. Additionally, they are training local citizens as “citizen scientists” to identify pollinators and monitor sites.