Blue orchard bees are good pollinators of early spring orchard crops and are used commercially. These bees pollinate crops such as apple (Malus domestica), cherry (Prunus spp.), raspberry (Rubus spp.), peach (Prunus persica), cranberry (Vaccinium spp.), strawberry (Fragaria spp.), radish (Raphanus sativus), and sage (Salvia spp.). They also pollinate wildflowers like waterleaf ( Hydrophyllum spp.) and fiddleneck (Amsinckia spp.).
Blue orchard bees are good commercial pollinators of orchard crops for several reasons. These bees are relatively easy to handle because they are non-aggressive. They are easy to manage and are self-sustaining with little maintenance; population size can increase by about 2 1/2 times per year. Blue orchard bees are also efficient pollinators because they land directly upon the reproductive structures of blossoms. A female blue orchard bee's abdomen is covered in hairs and these hairs pick up pollen. When the bee moves to the next flower to forage, it inadvertently transfers the pollen to the new blossom's reproductive structures. Also, blue orchard bees are highly active, even under poor weather conditions, and are fast flyers with a high bloom visitation rate. Finally, far fewer blue orchard bees than honey bees (Apis mellifera) are needed to provide pollination services - depending on the crop, about 250-300 nesting blue orchard bee females per acre are required whereas one strong hive, between 25,000 and 30,000, of honey bees per acre are required.
- Blue orchard bees and fruit tree pollination, www.Osmia.com; Orchard Mason Bees, Gardening in Western Washington, Washington State University Extension
- Orchard Mason Bees, Evan A. Sugden, July 1999, Washington State University Cooperative Extension, King County
- How to Manage the Blue Orchard Bee: As an Orchard Pollinator, J. Bosch and W. Kemp, Sustainable Agriculture Network, 2001.
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