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Pollinator Paradise 
Where bees and flowers cooperate for mutual benefit

2013 Bee Cocoons for the 2014 Pollinating Season:

Blue Orchard bees (Osmia lignaria) for the 2014 season are sold out.  2014 Prices  are listed below.   Contact us in December 2014 or January 2015 for information about bees for the 2015 season.

Read below for information on how to distinguish Osmia lignaria and Osmia cornifrons.  If you have bees of your own, use our distinguishing characteristics to to see if you have one or both species.  Scroll down to see a Table of Contents.

Depending on demand, we may purchase excess bees in straws or loose cocoons for the 2014 season.  Click here for more information.

Read our Osmia management guide, including winter management of Osmia cocoons, and Feeding Osmia with sugar water when bloom is scarce.  Download a 2009 Osmia management Calendar to print!

About Blue Orchard Bees, Osmia lignaria, and Hornfaced Bees, Osmia cornifrons  
Recognizing adult hornfaced bees vs. blue orchard bees 
Recognizing hornfaced bee vs. blue orchard bee cocoons 
Managing Osmia bees for orchard pollination 
About the bee cocoons that we have for sale 
Pricing 
Cocoon analysis and cleaning services   
Sell your excess bees   
Lease Binderboard® systems   

Hornfaced bee, Osmia cornifrons click image to enlarge

About Blue Orchard Bees, Osmia lignaria, and Hornfaced Bees, Osmia cornifrons  
Orchard bees are solitary bee species in the genus Osmia, family Megachilidae.  They are solitary because each female makes her own nest and lays her own eggs; there are no separate queen and worker castes as in honey bees.  Although they have a stinger, they are very docile, and rarely use their stinger, unlike honey bees and social wasps.  In nature they make their nests in tunnels in wood and other cavities.  We can mimic natural tunnels with artificial ones, and therefore we can manage populations of these bees.

Osmia bees are only active as adults during the spring while fruit trees are in bloom and temperatures are cool.  They are excellent pollinators, flying during cooler weather than honey bees, and later in the day.  Individual bees move more between trees than individual honey bees, and female bees always collect nectar as well as pollen, so they provide good cross-pollination for fruits such as apple that require movement of pollen between tree varieties. 

Adult Osmia bees live only for about 6 weeks, so you do not need to find resources for them for the entire season, unlike honey bees.  Inside the nest, eggs hatch into larvae and feed on pollen provisions left by the mother bee.  She creates individual cells for each bee offspring with it's own provisions.  The cells are separated by mud partitions.  After the larva finishes feeding on the provisions, it defecates and spins a cocoon.  The larvae remain in the cocoons inactive all summer.  In the fall they molt into pupae and then into adults.  They spend the winter as adults in the cocoon, and then emerge in early spring to start another generation.

Blue orchard bees, Osmia lignaria, are native to the US and Canada.  There are two different sub species, one found in the West and one in the East.  Intermediates are found in Arizona and New Mexico.  Most Osmia lignaria sold commercially come from the West.   Ours are from Portland, OR.

Hornfaced bees are native to Japan, and were introduced to the U.S. in the 1960s for pollination of fruit trees by Dr. Suzanne Batra with the USDA ARS in Beltsville, MD.   They have become established in a number of places on the east coast and the midwest.  On the west coast, I have information to suggest that they may be established in the areas around Portland, Oregon and in suburban areas south of Puget Sound in Washington.   To the best of my knowledge they are not yet established in the intermountain west or in California. 

Use of this bee for fruit pollination is controversial in the scientific community.  Many bee biologists are concerned that this species may cause a decline in populations of native fruit pollinators such as the blue orchard bee, Osmia lignaria.  In addition, when bees are introduced to areas where they are not native, their parasites can also be introduced, and the parasites may affect native species.  Recently there have been reports of a Japanese chalcid wasp that is parasitizing some populations of hornfaced bees on the east coast.   For this reason, many bee biologists believe that O. lignaria should be sold only in the same part of the country where they were collected.  They argue that local native populations of Osmia lignaria should be developed for commercial sale.

On the other hand, fruit growers who have tried both hornfaced bees and blue orchard bees often prefer hornfaced bees, which appear to be more active at the nest and in fruit trees.  To my knowledge there is no published data to prove this (if you know of some, please let me know).  My brief observation of a mixed population suggests that male hornfaced bees are more active at the nest site after emergence than are male blue orchard bees, but this does not necessarily mean that the females are more active.

Hornfaced bees are also reported to be more likely to remain in the area where they are released and nest compared with blue orchard bees.  Again, I've not seen published data to document this, but it would be useful to test.  If these bees are not likely to leave the orchard where they are released, the risk that they will impact native bee populations outside of the orchard may be low.

Because hornfaced bees are known to be established on the east coast and in the midwest, but their distribution is not confirmed in the west, I prefer to sell the O. cornifrons cocoons that I have to buyers on the east coast and midwest.    Similarly, I prefer to sell my O. lignaria to buyers in the west.

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Blue orchard bee, Osmia lignaria
Click image to enlarge

Recognizing adult hornfaced bees vs. blue orchard bees 

Hornfaced bees are brownish in color with light stripes on the abdomen.  Blue orchard bees are dark blue black.  Hornfaced bees are also a little smaller in size than blue orchard bees.  The "horn" on the face of the hornfaced bee is easy to see in the photo above, but not when observing the bees in the field.

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BOB cocoons on left, HFB cocoons on right.
Click image to enlarge.

 

Recognizing hornfaced bee vs. blue orchard bee cocoons

Hornfaced bee cocoons (right column in the photo) tend to be smaller, and silver in color compared to brown blue orchard bee cocoons.  Hornfaced bee cocoons have a smooth surface whereas blue orchard bees have a more crinkled surface.  Hornfaced bee cocoons often have a rim of hairs around the nipple (visible on the center right cocoon).

Generally there are more hornfaced bees per nest than blue orchard bees (average 11 vs. 7 cells in 6 inch tunnels).  Hornfaced bee cocoons are packed into the nest more tightly, with little or no space between cocoons.  Blue orchard bees are more likely to have empty space between the cocoon and the nest plug (but not always).  Male hornfaced bee cocoons are oriented on an angle, but blue orchard bee cocoons are not. 

Usually complete nests of these two species can be easily distinguished, but when a nest is incomplete, or two species have used the same nest (usurpation), some of the distinguishing characters may not be apparent and identification may be more difficult.

Hornfaced bee nests (top 3 nests) and blue orchard bee nests (bottom 3 nests) in straw liners. 
Click on image to enlarge.

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Managing Osmia bees for orchard pollination

Hornfaced bees are managed in much the same way as blue orchard bees.  The books that are available about management of blue orchard bees provide general guidelines.  However, note that overwintering hornfaced bees in cocoons may not tolerate freezing temperatures as blue orchard bees do, and the timing of bee emergence with bloom may need some modifications compared with blue orchard bees.  The same nesting materials that are used for blue orchard bees work well for hornfaced bees.

Also relevant to both species of Osmia is Dr. Batra's guide to the management of hornfaced bees.

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About the bee cocoons that we have for sale

The O. lignaria cocoons that we have for sale come from the Portland, Oregon area.

 We have cleaned the cocoons to remove hairy-fingered mite parasites, and we have removed any cocoons that had signs of chalcid wasp parasites.

Females are about 1/3 of our O. lignaria population.  About 0.3% of the cocoons contain dead larvae .  We provide a few extra cocoons in each order in case your receive dead larvae or adults. 

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Pricing 

We have a limited number of cocoons for the 2013 season.  Prices are listed below. 

Read our Osmia management guide, including winter management of Osmia cocoons, and Feeding Osmia with sugar water when bloom is scarce.   2009 Osmia management Calendar

How to order 

Note:  We price our bees by the number of females, who do most of the pollinating. Purchase one female per available tunnel.  Males are free, and are included in the same proportion as the sex ratio of the population.  Unless you are certain from past experience that you have productive bee habitat, we don't recommend putting out a Binderboard with more tunnels than the number of bees that you purchase.   If you do so, many tunnels may remain unfilled.  Instead, order extra liners, or a back-up Binderboard to put out if your bees are very productive.

Note:  We had a very few O. cornifrons this year.  Contact us in January 2015 for availability for the 2015 season. 

Garden Package:  A minimum of 15 female and 30 male cocoons, enough for our 16-hole sampler Osmia Binderboard®.
Shipped in a small emergence box. (Binderboard® sold separately)
Osmia lignaria        $40.00 (Sold Out)  

Beginner Small Orchard Package:  50 female cocoons and about 100 male cocoons, enough for our 56-hole Osmia Binderboard®.  Shipped in a small emergence box. (Binderboard® sold separately)
Osmia lignaria        $125.00 (Sold Out)

Intermediate Small Orchard Package:  approximately 100 female cocoons and about 200 male cocoons, enough for our 104-hole Osmia Binderboard®.  Should provide pollination for about 1/3 acre of fruit trees.  Shipped in an emergence box. (Binderboard® sold separately)
Osmia lignaria      $225.00  (Sold Out)

Advanced Small Orchard Package:  approximately 300 female cocoons and about 600 male cocoons, enough for our 300-hole Osmia Binderboard®.  Should provide pollination for about an acre of fruit trees.  Shipped in an emergence box. (Binderboard® sold separately)  
Osmia lignaria      $600.00  (Sold Out)

Professional Package, for large acreages:  For 500 - 999 females (plus approximately equal numbers of males):  $1.20 per female.  For 1,000 - 4,999 females, (plus approximately 50% males) $0.90 per female.   For quantities of 5,000 females or more, contact us.   (Sold Out)

Shipping and handling additional.  Cocoons will be shipped priority or overnight mail depending on weather and time during the season.   Cocoons are usually shipped in an insulated box with an ice pack.  Shipping and handling will be calculated when you contact us with your request.

Prices subject to change.

Please read our 

How to order 

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Top of Page    Pollinator Paradise Home     Back to Binderboards®   
Leafcutting bees and alfalfa   Research slide shows     Bee management    Philosophy    Links    Contact Us
         The Solitary Bee Web   Rearing Solitary Bees    Suppliers    References   Bee Gardens    FAQ   Links    
New Mexico Native Bee Pollinator Project   About Dr. Strickler   

Bee Nests and Accessories  Bee Photo Gallery

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Copyright © 2006, Karen Strickler.  All rights reserved.
Updated 1/5/2013