Farm Focus: Using Drone Technology to Map Bees

Dr. Frankie from UC Berkeley was out on the farm last week checking in on our Native Bee project. He and his team are busy measuring native bee populations on our farm and other farms throughout the state.

In order to further interpret the data his team is collecting, Frankie is investigating drone technology.  Drone mapping would allow Frankie’s team to examine the finer details of the landscape and how the landscape dynamics relate to bee populations in the areas under his research.  Some of these dynamics include where the conventional farms are in relationship to organic farms under research, where the
nearest natural areas are that may supply bees, to identify where water sources are, and to see if there are any special gardens in the area.

Dr. Frankie and his team have found that the farms that have largest populations of native bees are located closest to creeks and urban areas. Many native bees build their nests in mud and need sources of water to nest, while urban areas typically have many ornamental plants that supply a food source for the bees throughout the year.  The maps provided by drones would provide an additional data point for Frankie’s reasearch.

Frog Hollow offers a wonderful landscape for many kinds of native bees. In our orchard we have a lot of what many farmers call weeds.  We consider tall grasses to be a resource.  We allow grasses to grow up in between our rows of trees. These grasses help our soil retain water, provide habitat for beneficial insects, including native bees, and also provide a food source for our native pollinators.  In addition to our grassy inter rows, we have many areas planted in flowering native plants to attract and provide food for the pollinator population we seek to foster.

Despite this oasis for native bees, Frankie notes that Frog Hollow doesn’t have as many bees as one would expect to see on our farm.  His research suggests that the reason Frog Hollow’s populations of native bees is lower because we are surrounded by many conventional farms that are devoid of “weeds”.  Weed species provide a great source of food and shelter for bees.

Using drone technology would help map these correlations and will provide other useful data points in his team’s research endeavors.

We’ll let you know if we start mapping!

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