Managing Solitary Cavity Nesting Bees for Cane Fruit in Oregon
We have had good news and bad news this year. The first good news is that the webcam and solar panel work well, and the webcam images are excellent for our purposes. The bad news is that we have not been able to make the webcam images available for our collaborators or other interested growers to see in real time, which is our goal.
The second good news is that despite poor spring weather, the O. aglaia populations are increasing exponentially and are starting to be available in large numbers. The bad news is that O. aglaia does not seem to help much with pollination of black raspberries, at least when the weather is cold and wet. The black raspberries did not produce much of a crop this 2010 season. Black raspberries are one of the first varieties to bloom and are particularly hard to pollinate.
This project continued in early 2010 when Mike Carter, principal engineer with Beeline Services, visited the Sturm farm on March 8 and installed the remotely controllable camera equipment and a solar panel to provide system power. Mr. Carter completed the system late February 2010 and operated the system from his company lab near Seaside, Oregon. He was successful in remotely controlling and viewing from the camera system over a satellite internet connection from another worksite in Washington State.
However, in its new location in Corbett, technical problems were experienced with the internet connectivity. As a part of the diagnostics, Mr. Carter replaced the router in an effort to get the webcam to communicate from the computer in the Sturm Berry Farm offices. By the middle of April, it was determined that while the system images could be seen on the office computer, remote access to the system continued to be actively blocked by the internet service provider.
As a result, Technical Advisor Karen Strickler and other collaborators were unable to get access to the webcam images. After several discussions and technical sessions with the Sturm’s internet service (which has not been very cooperative to date), we are thus far unsuccessful in finding a solution.
Mr. Carter advised the Sturms to find a different internet provider, but by this time the growing season was in full swing, and the Sturms did not have time to research available internet alternatives.
In the meantime, the Osmia aglaia that were overwintering the Sturm porch first started to emerge during a warm spell around April 18. The cocoons were moved to the refrigerator at that time because the raspberries were not yet in bloom. Cold, wet weather set in again shortly after, and lasted until early June. The bees and clean nesting materials were placed in two shelters in the raspberry fields in early May.
Karen Strickler and her husband visited the Sturm farm on May 31 to see how the bees and pollination were going. She reported on the visit on the Oregon Berry Bee Blog (http://oregonberrybee.blogspot.com/2010_06_01_archive.html).
Black raspberries were finishing bloom at that time and marion berries were starting to bloom. Many Osmia aglaia had emerged from their cocoons but had not yet left the cottage cheese containers that were used as emergence boxes, probably because of the cool, overcast weather. Entries on the blog show the camera set up, a comparison of the flowers of black raspberry and marion berry and a bumblebee visitor to the black raspberry. Dr. Strickler was impressed with the webcam images that Rosie Sturm showed her on the Sturm computer in the barn, including close ups of the bee nests as well as images of the entire bee shelter and the surrounding blackberries. Some of these images are posted on the blog. While checking out the images on the Sturm computer, Ms. Sturm and Dr. Strickler watched as a hummingbird entered the shelter with the bees and poked its bill into an emergence box and a nest tunnel. We do not know if the hummingbird was eating bees or just exploring, but it prompted Dr. Strickler to cover the front of the bee shelter with screening to discourage birds from disturbing the bees.
The filled bee nests were removed from the field in early October, and the webcam and solar panel were removed from the field in late October and stored in the Sturm barn for the winter.
In November Dr. Strickler and friends visited the farm again to remove bees from the nests, store the cocoons for the winter and prepare the nests for the 2011 season. Cocoons were left on the Sturm’s front porch.
We removed about 21,700 cocoons from the bee boards that were filled this season. This was a 2.8 fold increase over the estimated 7,800 bees released this spring. This yield is better than last year’s 2.3 fold increase in bees. We consider this an excellent yield of bees given the poor weather in early spring. These yields will allow us to place shelters of O. aglaia in several places in the field for more thorough pollination.
We also collected about 280 female cocoons and 420 male cocoons of Osmia lignaria, the blue orchard bee, from nests with larger tunnels that were scattered around the raspberry fields.
Dr. Jim Cane also had additional Osmia aglaia populations on the Sturm farm this past spring. His populations were placed in a southwest corner of the farm near several large bushes of Himalayan blackberry. He is actively increasing the numbers of O. aglaia that are available for berry producers and is working with two other berry growers in addition to the Sturms to develop these bees for berry pollination. Among other projects he is studying alternative flowers that O. aglaia visits that might provide forage after raspberry pollination is complete, in order to maximize bee yields. We have not yet heard how well his bee populations reproduced on the Sturm farm in 2010.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Rosie Sturm is planning to look into alternative internet providers that are available in Corbett, and that might allow the webcam images to be available on the web. Mike Carter is performing a technical analysis on implementation of a cellular phone-based solution that would supplant the requirement for a local PC and internet connection. Both Mr. Carter and Dr. Strickler have agreed to postpone or forego payment for their time on the project until it becomes clear what extra equipment or other costs will be needed to make the webcam images available on the internet.
Because black raspberry pollination is one of our chief concerns, Dr. Strickler will help the Sturms increase the local population of the blue orchard bee, Osmia lignaria, which emerges about a month earlier than O. aglaia and flies in colder temperatures than the berry bee. The two bee species should coexist in the same nesting shelters. O. lignaria has been managed for pollination of apple, plum, peach and other tree fruit and should visit raspberries as well. We should be able to delay their emergence to synchronize with black raspberry bloom.
We have already received a request from another independent pollination consultant to purchase some of our Osmia aglaia for use in other Oregon raspberry fields, so word is getting out that they may be a useful additional pollinator. When the webcam images are available, we expect to contact growers who may be interested in the project and invite them to visit the webcam and blog. Don Sturm and Karen Strickler plan to present the findings of our study to the Oregon Raspberry and Blackberry Commission in 2011.
USDA-ARS Bee Biology and Systematics Lab
Utah State University
Logan, UT 84322-5310
Office Phone: 4357973879
80673 Olds rd
Seaside, OR 97138
Office Phone: 5037172923
2012-77th Ave NE
Medina, WA 98039
Office Phone: 4254627762