North American farmers are on the front lines of the fight to protect honey bees and other pollinators, and now a group of researchers at the University of Vermont (UVM) has developed a software application that makes it easier for farmers to nurture pollinator populations on their properties.
The app was developed using data from the first national map of U.S. wild bees which was published by UVM last year. By putting this data in the hands of farmers, scientists could learn more about future changes in bee activity throughout the country as well.
Using the app (which has yet to be named), farmers can look at aerial views of their fields, and explore a variety of different land management scenarios in a virtual environment.
Rather than spending hours surveying their fields on foot, the app allows them to test out how different planting options and bee box placements might affect their crops and the insects that pollinate them. It also suggests best practices to help farmers promote healthy pollinator activity in their fields.
“You simply draw different options—from wind breaks to planting flowers to bringing in honey bees,” said UVM bee expert and app developer Taylor Ricketts in an interview. “The app will do a pollination, productivity, and eventually, a cost-benefit analysis. Farmers can then determine which choices bring the best return on investment.”
Farmers and bees have a unique, mutually-dependent relationship. When bees succeed, so do the farmers whose crops they pollinate. This app can help farmers to make bee-friendly decisions that also benefit their bottom line. It’s a true win-win scenario for farmers and bees alike.