The blue orchard bee, Osmia lignaria (Say), is a solitary bee that is an excellent pollinator of tree fruit orchards. Due to the annual rising costs of honey bee hive rentals, many orchardists are eager to develop management tools and practices to support O. lignaria as an alternative pollinator. Establishing O. lignaria pollination as a sustainable industry requires careful consideration of both bee and orchard management. Here, we test the effect of artificial nest box distribution on in-orchard propagation of O. lignaria in Utah commercial tart cherry orchards. Two nest box distributions were compared across three paired, 1.2-ha plots. One distribution, traditionally employed by O. lignaria consultants, included a centrally located tote for mass-nesting with smaller, surrounding 'satellite' nest boxes at orchard margins. The other distribution was composed of smaller, more equally distributed nest boxes throughout the 1.2-ha plots. Significantly higher propagation of O. lignaria was observed in the latter nest box distribution, although all treatments resulted in bee return exceeding the number of bees initially released. These findings provide support for the use of O. lignaria in tart cherry orchards, and demonstrate how simple changes to bee set-up and management can influence propagation efforts.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Insect Science