Habitat Highlight: Mass Flowering Crops

Mass-flowering crops refer to agricultural crops that provide abundant floral resources during their bloom period, which is often over a short period of time. Examples of mass-flowering crops are almond, blueberry, canola, and sunflower. Mass-flowering crops have been shown to support a wide array of pollinators and provide critical short-term resources, especially in agricultural landscapes lacking habitat areas. 

Because some farms may grow these crops exclusively, Bee Better Certified only allows a mass-flowering crop to comprise 1% of the habitat requirement to ensure that there are a number of other resources provided when those crops are not in bloom. Other habitat features such as cover crops and hedgerows are often easily integrated amongst mass-flowering crops to meet minimum habitat requirements for certification.

Mass flowering crops provide abundant resources to pollinators, but for only a limited period of time and must be supplemented with other types of habitat. Photo: Sarah Foltz Jordan / Xerces

From the Field: Blueberries are an example of a crop that flowers en masse, providing a dazzling amount of pollen and nectar to bees able to access its delicate bell-shaped flowers during it’s short bloom period. Bumble bees and digger bees (Andrena sp.) are among the species attracted to blueberry blooms; they are also highly effective blueberry pollinators. However, they need flowers before and after bloom to sustain their populations. In the Willamette Valley, two farms managed by Agriculture Capital Management, a sustainable investment group, are incorporating a wide array of habitat features to supplement the diet of wild pollinators. They have dedicated the last row of most fields to native plant hedgerows. The hedgerows are built on the blueberry berms, so likely also provide excellent habitat for nesting bumble bees. They are also seeding a native alley crop between the rows of blueberry that contain attractive plants like lupines, which also fix nitrogen. Finally, in unused areas on the farm and along the riverbank, they are planting habitat typical of the valley, rich with trees that attract pollinators like maple. Combined, the flowers from the crop fields and habitat plantings provide a host of options for the lucky pollinators on their property.

Where to plant: Typically grown as a primary crop.

Services provided: Temporary forage