Blue Orchard BeeA Champion Cherry Pollinator
Like cherries? Here's good news from ARS
scientists in Utah: The blue orchard bee, or Osmia lignaria,
continues to rank as an ace pollinator of this delectable summer crop.
That's important. If pollen isn't ferried to cherry blossoms by insect
pollinators such as this nimble bee, the flowers won't form the sweet,
plump fruit that cherry aficionados love.
New information about the gentle bee's superb pollination
skills comes from investigations by entomologist William P. Kemp of
the ARS Bee Biology and Systematics Laboratory in Logan, Utah, and colleague
Jordi Bosch, formerly at the Logan laboratory and now with the Department
of Biology at Utah State University.
In a 4-year experiment at a commercial cherry orchard
in northern Utah, Kemp and Bosch compared cherry harvests before they
brought in blue orchard beesand then after. "Production was
more than twice as high when blue orchard bees were used in place of
honey bees," Bosch reports.
Blue orchard bees typically stay on the job despite weather
that sends other bees buzzing back to their snug hives. That may help
explain why the cherry orchard that the blue orchard bees pollinated
produced harvestable yields even in the years when bad weather robbed
most cherry growers in the region of their crop.
The researchers also found that blue orchard bee populations
continued to increase throughout the study.
Kemp and Bosch encourage beekeepers and orchardists to
use this hard-working bee to augment the efforts of the domesticated
honey bee, Apis mellifera. Many colonies of this familiar honey
bee have been devastated in recent years by mites, beetles, and aggressive
Africanized honey bees.
The scientists have authored a new, 96-page handbook that's
packed with helpful tips on how to use the blue orchard bee to proficiently
pollinate not only cherries, but also almond, apple, apricot, and pear
trees. Based on nearly three decades of lab, greenhouse, and orchard
studies by ARS experts based at Logan, the book makes an excellent reference
for growers, professional beekeepers, hobbyists, and home gardeners.
How To Manage the Blue Orchard Bee as an Orchard Pollinator is
available from the University of Vermont, Burlington, (802) 656-0484.By
Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.
"Blue Orchard BeeA Champion Cherry Pollinator" was published in the January 2003 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.