Newly Designed Bee-Box Boosts Pollinators'
Readiness By Marcia Wood January 22, 2008
Hardworking blue orchard bees can be coaxed out of their snug winter
cocoons just in time to pollinate the year's earliest and best blossoms, thanks
to a newly designed box for these slumbering pollinators.
Bee experts with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
Insects Biology, Management and Systematics Research Unit in Logan, Utah,
created the box to help growers and beekeepers ensure that blue orchard bees
(Osmia lignaria) or other wild bees are ready to help America's harried
honey bees (Apis mellifera) pollinate fruit or nut treesor other
cropsas soon as they begin to flower.
Synchronizing bees and blooms is tricky, according to ARS research
L. Pitts-Singer at Logan. For example, almond trees may burst into bloom
when still-wintering bees aren't yet ready to pollinate them.
Pitts-Singer, Logan technician
Trostle, and former Logan entomologists
P. Kemp, now with ARS in North Dakota, and Jordi Bosch, now in Spain,
designed and tested the housing unit, called a "bee warming and emergence box."
ARS is seeking a patent.
Tests in a California almond orchard and Utah apple orchardwith
about 450 female blue orchard bees in eachshowed that approximately 50
percent of the bees sheltered in the new boxes flew outdoors by the fourth day
of the test. That was two days earlier in California and seven days earlier in
Utah than bees emerging from traditional, unheated wood blocks.
For the experiment, prototype unitsmade of polycarbonate and
polystyrene foam, and measuring 16 by 10 by 13 incheswere slipped inside
wood shelters in the orchards. Each prototype included a heating unit,
thermostat and clear tube for bees to use as an exit. Some daylight comes into
the box through the clear tube, so that bees can find their way out.
Flexible bristles lining the tube allow bees out, but not back in.
That's a plus, because it encourages the bees to make new, clean nests in wood
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.