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Photo: Blue orchard bee, Osmia lignaria. Link to photo information
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Secrets of Blue Orchard Bees Revealed in New Book

By Marcia Wood
April 19, 2002

Tips from Agricultural Research Service bee researchers on how to raise one of nature’s best pollinators are presented in a new book, “How to Manage the Blue Orchard Bee As an Orchard Pollinator.”

Known to scientists as Osmia lignaria, the blue orchard bee pollinates almond, apple, apricot, cherry and pear trees. The 96-page softcover book is based on more than 25 years of research by ARS entomologists at the agency’s Bee Biology and Systematics Research Laboratory in Logan, Utah.

William P. Kemp and Jordi Bosch are the book’s co-authors. Kemp is research leader at the ARS bee lab at Logan. Bosch, formerly a post-doctoral research associate at the Logan laboratory, is now with the Department of Biology at Utah State University, Logan.

In text, hand-drawn illustrations, and color and black-and-white photos, the authors explain how to rear and release healthy populations of this gentle bee in orchards and gardens. They also describe the best methods for controlling the bee’s natural enemies. And, they show how to build units from inexpensive everyday materials such as wood blocks, milk cartons and paper straws that female blue orchard bees can use to make safe, snug nests.

Though the book is primarily intended for beekeeping professionals and orchardists, it also is a useful reference for hobbyists, home gardeners, and anyone else interested in the life of this busy native bee, according to Kemp. The book is available from the University of Vermont, Burlington.

The blue orchard bee may augment the efforts of the European honey bee, Apis mellifera, the insect most widely used in the United States to pollinate crops.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific research agency.