The Value Of Pollinating Bees

We love all creatures great and small, even (we try as best we can) the pesky ones. It is not because we are generous, though we hope we are. It is because we see their value. For hopefully obvious reasons, pollinators are our favorite bees. Our lives depend on them. That is why we have featured dozens of stories about them. Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) for this one:

Watch This Native Pollinator Build Her Bee-Jeweled Nest

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A female blue orchard bee forages for nectar and pollen on Phacelia tanacetifolia flowers, also known as blue or purple tansy. Blue orchard bees are solitary bees that help pollinate California’s almond orchards. Josh Cassidy/KQED

While honeybees and their buzzing hives and hyper-fertile queens get all the press for pollinating our food supply, the hard-working blue orchard bee is one of 4,000 bee species native to North America that does its solitary work in relative obscurity. That is, until now.

In the video, you can see how this bee builds its nests, alternating mud and a purple nectar-pollen mixture in hollow, skinny spaces. The blue orchard bees are preparing a purple lunch box of sorts for their offspring so they have food to eat in the tunnel. The blue orchard bees’ work looks more like jewelry or even scoops of trendy ube ice cream than a nest.

But the blue orchard bee is more than a pretty face. It is an efficient pollinator that some farmers are exploring as a possible alternative or supplement to honeybees in sweet cherry and almond orchards.

Honeybees are more prolific, but 40 to 50 percent of colonies die every year, according to a yearly National Honey Bee Survey, taken by universities and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Almond Board, among others.

Enter the blue orchard bee.

“This is, I think, the moment for these bees to shine,” says entomologist Natalie Boyle, who studies blue orchard bees at the USDA in Logan, Utah.

Boyle works with almond growers in California whose crop is worth $5.2 billion a year and who rely heavily on honeybees to pollinate their orchards every February. Research has found that 400 female blue orchard bees are as effective at pollinating almonds as the more than 10,000 bees in a honeybee hive, says Boyle…

Read the whole story here.

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