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Cranberry Chores Don’t Bog Down These Bees / May 3, 2000 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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Osmia ribifloris  bee

Details: See the story in Agricultural Research magazine.

Cranberry Chores Don’t Bog Down These Bees

By Marcia Wood
May 3, 2000

Two species of native bees may prove ideal for helping America’s domesticated honey bees with the daunting task of pollinating cranberry plants. An average acre of cranberry bog has about 20 million flowers. Each of these small, white blooms must be visited at least once by a pollinating insect in order for the flowers to form ripe, crimson berries.

Agricultural Research Service scientists in Logan, Utah, and their colleagues from Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., Lakeville, Mass., are scrutinizing the pollinating skills of a small, steely-blue bee known as Osmia atriventris. This insect belongs to a family of native bees that nest in holes in stems, branches, fenceposts, tree trunks and other aboveground cavities.

And the scientists are experimenting with another promising native, a honey bee-sized leaf cutter called Megachile addenda. The leaf-cutting bee makes its shallow home in the sandy bottom of cranberry bogs.

James H. Cane of the ARS Bee Biology and Systematics Laboratory at Logan, is leading the work as part of a cooperative research and development agreement between ARS and Ocean Spray, the country’s largest cranberry-grower cooperative.

Bee museum

A bee museum?

Native bees are gentle and hardworking. They may help offset the loss of domesticated honey bees from attack by varroa or tracheal mites, small hive beetles, or microbes that cause devastating diseases such as foulbrood or chalkbrood. An article in the May issue of the ARS monthly journal, Agricultural Research, tells more about the Logan research team’s studies of native bees as alternative pollinators.

ARS is USDA’s chief research agency.

Scientific contact: James H. Cane, ARS Bee Biology and Systematics Laboratory, 5310 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322; phone (435) 797-3879, fax (435 )797-0461, jcane@biology.usu.edu.

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