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J Econ Entomol. 2017 Oct 1;110(5):1980-1992. doi: 10.1093/jee/tox191.

Economic Risk of Bee Pollination in Maine Wild Blueberry, Vaccinium angustifolium.

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Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 79409.
School of Economics, University of Maine, 206 Winslow Hall, Orono, ME 04469.
School of Biology and Ecology, University of Maine, 5722 Deering Hall, Orono, ME 04469.
University of Maine Cooperative Extension, University of Maine, 5722 Deering Hall, Orono, ME 04469.


Recent pollinator declines highlight the importance of evaluating economic risk of agricultural systems heavily dependent on rented honey bees or native pollinators. Our study analyzed variability of native bees and honey bees, and the risks these pose to profitability of Maine's wild blueberry industry. We used cross-sectional data from organic, low-, medium-, and high-input wild blueberry producers in 1993, 1997-1998, 2005-2007, and from 2011 to 2015 (n = 162 fields). Data included native and honey bee densities (count/m2/min) and honey bee stocking densities (hives/ha). Blueberry fruit set, yield, and honey bee hive stocking density models were estimated. Fruit set is impacted about 1.6 times more by native bees than honey bees on a per bee basis. Fruit set significantly explained blueberry yield. Honey bee stocking density in fields predicted honey bee foraging densities. These three models were used in enterprise budgets for all four systems from on-farm surveys of 23 conventional and 12 organic producers (2012-2013). These budgets formed the basis of Monte Carlo simulations of production and profit. Stochastic dominance of net farm income (NFI) cumulative distribution functions revealed that if organic yields are high enough (2,345 kg/ha), organic systems are economically preferable to conventional systems. However, if organic yields are lower (724 kg/ha), it is riskier with higher variability of crop yield and NFI. Although medium-input systems are stochastically dominant with lower NFI variability compared with other conventional systems, the high-input system breaks even with the low-input system if honey bee hive rental prices triple in the future.


fruit set; lowbush blueberry; native bee; net farm income; yield

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