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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: BEE DIVERSITY AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF HEALTHY, SUSTAINABLE BEE POLLINATION SYSTEMS Title: Production of solitary bees for pollination in the U.S.

Authors
item Peterson, Stephen -
item Artz, Derek

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: February 5, 2013
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Many of our most valuable crops require an insect, usually a bee, for pollination. In addition, agriculture is becoming more dependent on the services of bees because the proportion of crops that require insect pollination has increased in recent years. Although honey bees provide the bulk of pollination services to U.S. crops, solitary bees also provide pollination services to a variety of agriculturally-important crops. Solitary bees are a diverse insect group, in which all females build their own nests and lay their own eggs without the help of other bees in a colony; they live alone. These bees visit flowers to collect nectar and pollen to provide food for their offspring, and their visits to flowers result in pollination. Solitary bees only live for one season, unlike honey bees whose colonies survive for several years. A few solitary bee species are now under management to pollinate crops in the United States. These include alfalfa leafcutting bees, for alfalfa seed and canola, alkali bees, for alfalfa seed, and blue orchard bees, for almonds, apples and cherries. These bees must visit flowers and provision a nest prior to egg laying, so production of these pollinators takes place in crop fields, greenhouses or screenhouses. Bee populations can increase up to 5-fold in a year. Because these solitary bees are highly efficient pollinators and often superior to honey bees, they provide much needed diversity in agricultural pollination.

Technical Abstract: Although honey bees provide the bulk of pollination services to U.S. crops, solitary bees also provide pollination services to a variety of agriculturally-important crops. Solitary bees are a diverse group of hymenopterans, in which all females are reproductive. These bees visit flowers to collect nectar and pollen to provision nests for their offspring. By visiting flowers, the bees transport pollen and promote pollination. Production of the bees is seasonal and the egg laying rate is usually one or two per day. A few species are now under management to pollinate crops in the United States. These include Megachile rotundata, for alfalfa seed and canola, Nomia melanderi, for alfalfa seed, and Osmia lignaria, for almonds, apples and cherries. These bees must visit flowers and provision a nest prior to egg laying, so production of these pollinators takes place in the field, greenhouse or screenhouse. Populations can increase up to 5-fold in a year. Because these solitary bees are highly efficient pollinators and often superior to honey bees, they provide much needed diversity in agricultural pollination. As our scientific and practical knowledge of these species expands, solitary bees will become increasingly important commercial pollinators.

Last Modified: 11/28/2014