A "Berry" Good Bee for Pollinating
Blackberries and Raspberries
By Marcia Wood
February 7, 2008
Bringing grains of pollen to waiting
blackberry and red raspberry blossoms may be the special talent of a small,
emerald-green bee called Osmia aglaia. That's according to Agricultural
Research Service (ARS) entomologist
Cane, whoin outdoor experiments in Oregon and Utahhas studied
the pollination prowess of this 3/8-inch-long bee perhaps more extensively than
any other scientist.
The hardworking bee, native to Oregon and California, may help with
pollination chores, augmenting the work of America's best-known crop
pollinator, the European honey bee Apis mellifera. In recent years,
hived honey bees across the country have been hit hard by a mostly mysterious
condition known as colony collapse disorder. That problemand others
caused by mites, beetles, diseases and Africanized honey beeshave added
even more urgency to the need to find proficient pollinators among America's
wild native bees, noted Cane.
He's based at the
Pollinating Insect Biology, Management and Systematics Research Unit in
Logan, Utah. In one series of experiments, Cane showed that O. aglaia
bees work quickly, visiting just as many red raspberry flowers, and nearly as
many blackberry blossoms, as do honey bees, in the same amount of time.
Both kinds of berries are mostly self-pollinating, meaning that they can
form fruit without the need for insects to bring pollen to them. But better
berries result if honey bees or O. aglaia visit red raspberry flowers,
Cane found. The plump, well-formed fruits were 30 percent bigger than those on
red raspberry plants not visited by either bee species.
more about this research in the February 2008 issue of Agricultural
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.