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
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 Marcia Wood,
Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.
William P. Kemp is with the USDA-ARS Bee Biology and Systematics Laboratory, 5310
Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322; phone (435) 797-2525, fax (435) 797-0461.
"Blue Orchard BeeA Champion Cherry Pollinator" was published in
the January 2003 issue
of Agricultural Research magazine.