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 entomologist James H. Cane, who—in outdoor experiments in
Oregon and Utah—has 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 problem—and others caused by mites, beetles, diseases
and Africanized honey bees—have added even more urgency to the need to
find proficient pollinators among America’s wild native bees, noted
He’s based at the ARS 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
US Department of Agriculture. February 2008.