The Melibee Project has now been completed.

Welcome to the Melibee Project!

What happens when a new plant species comes into an area, and it is more attractive to pollinators than anything else around? Does it improve pollination of the native plants that are already there? Or does it lure away pollinators, or lead to the delivery of the wrong kind of pollen?

              Blueberries (left), cranberries (middle two images), and white sweetclover (right) all share the same habitat and overlap in pollinators.

We asked these types of questions following the arrival of a non-native plant, white sweetclover (Melilotus albus) in habitats in interior Alaska. We were particularly concerned about the impact on two of our favorite berry species: bog blueberry (Vaccinium uliginosum) and lowbush cranberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea, also known as lingonberry). These plants are prized by many, but particularly important components of subsistence lifestyles practiced across Alaska. Sweetclover has been expanding rapidly across the state, and is considered to be an invasive species. The native berry species and the invasive plant share pollinators such as native bumblebees, solitary bees, and syrphid flies. These plant species also share habitats, such as the relatively open habitat created following a fire.

The goal of our project was to figure out what the overall impact of sweetclover is on the production of blueberry and cranberry fruits and seeds, and why. We expected that the impacts depended, in part, on where in the state these plant species coexist, because in some places there is a lot of overlap in the time periods during which the native and invasive plants flower, and in some places there is not. Since sweetclover is still expanding and is likely to soon reach many villages that are off the road system and currently not invaded, we were also concerned with predicting where impacts are likely to be particularly large. Our Research site describes the questions we asked, the methods we used for answering them, and our results.

Get Involved!
You don't need to be a professional scientist to do research! There are several great ways to get involved in this project:

can track the phenology (timing of flowering and fruiting) of these species. If you live in Alaska or northern parts of Canada, you will most likely find blueberries and cranberries close to where you live and, if you are near a major urban center, sweetclover as well. If you live in the lower 48 or more southern parts of Canada, you will likely to be able to find white sweetclover. No matter where you live, if any of these plants grow near you, we'd love to have you join our team. Find out more by going to the Citizen Science webpage.

can find a host of resources on the For Classrooms webpage, including information about lesson plans and protocols for teaching about invasive plants and pollinators. All of these have been field tested on real teachers and kids! 

Please contact us!

And about that project name...
 No, it has nothing to do with Canterbury Tales - it is simply the combination of "Meli" (the first few letters of the invasive plant) and "bee" (the most common pollinators).