Tennessee grower uses native solitary bees to pollinate orchard

Tennessee grower uses native solitary bees to pollinate orchard

May 14, 2014

WOODBURY, Tenn. (RFD-TV) Honey bee colony collapse disorder is a major concern around the world.

With no real solution to the problem in sight many producers are seeking available alternatives for pollination.

U.S. Department of Agriculture certified organic farmer Christian Granthan, of Half Hill Farms, showed how native solitary bees are helping pollinate certain crops.

According to the USDA, CCD is a serious problem threatening the health of honey bees and the economic stability of commercial bee keeping and pollination operations in the country.

Despite a number of claims in the general and scientific media, researchers have not yet identified a cause.

These helpful and productive insects are some of the most important and beneficial bees in North America, but they have only been on the continent since the early 1600s.

They were known as European fireflies by the Native Americans.

Granthan says often native solitary bees are a better alternative for pollinating certain fruit trees and vegetables.

“If you have a garden at home, you may notice bumble bees pollinating your cucumbers a lot more than honey bees. In nature and in the environment, there are lots of native bees that do local pollinating way better. This is a great hands-off way for us to have bees, take care of the native bee population, increase the diversity of the bees, and slowly ease into to getting a colony of bees, honey bees,” said Granthan.

Solitary bees don’t create hives or colonize.

Mainly, females lay eggs in 6-inch-deep holes.

While some of the smaller holes attract males, they don’t add to the diversity of the bee population.

Bee condos are designed to attract the queens of many varieties of the native solitary bees.

“There’s something like 20 or 30 different varieties of solitary bees, including wasps. There’s a couple of wasp nests actually on here. We’ll let those go, as well. If they can all tolerate each other, great, so they can all be here. This structure is located close to our orchard here on Half Hill Farm because a lot of these actually pollinate our apple trees, and our blueberries. Mason bees, we notice, the orchard mason bee is our No. 1 pollinator in the orchard,” said Granthan.

By creating a natural habitat for solitary bees, they will choose the ready-made homes instead of spending their energy building a new once, increasing the diversity and concentrating the population where it’s needed most.

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