WILD POLLINATORS of
EASTERN APPLE ORCHARDS
and how to conserve them
WHY CONSIDER WILD BEES AS POLLINATORS NOW?
Honey bees are the most widely used insect pollinator in agricultural systems, as they
are easily managed. However, due to disease and compeng demands, the cost of
hive rentals connues to increase as supplies decrease. Farmers are aware of these
challenges as evidenced by a 2009 mail survey where 65% of New York apple growers
indicated that Colony Collapse Disorder of honey bees would negavely aect apple
producon3. For the same reason that diversied invesng is safer than dependence on
a single stock, relying on a single pollinator for this vital service may pose increasing risk.
Honey bees will no doubt remain a key pollinator for agricultural systems, but research
suggests more and more that wild bees are contribung to apple pollinaon.
WHAT ARE WILD BEES AND HOW DO THEY BENEFIT ME?
Besides honey bees, about 450 other bee species live in the eastern United States.
Over of these wild bees visit apple orchards. Most of these bees are nave to the
region, while at least one (the Hornfaced Bee, Osmia cornifrons) was introduced for
fruit pollinaon. Mail surveys of New York and Pennsylvania apple growers reveal that,
when abundant, wild bees provide all the pollinaon an orchard needs…and they do so
for FREE3,4! Further, careful pollinaon studies have shown that wild bees can be more
eecve pollinators than honey bees on a per-visit basis5,6,7, meaning they do not need
to be as abundant as honey bees to provide the same level of pollinaon. Wild bees
are a valuable orchard asset whose contribuons are only now beginning to be fully
WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT DIVERSITY?
Bee diversity stabilizes pollinaon services through me8. The more species in an area,
the more likely there will be a species that can tolerate variable climac condions, like
a cold and wet spring. Similarly when bee diversity is high, even if there is one species
that is exrpated by disease, parasites, pescides or habitat loss, other species connue
to thrive and pollinate.
FRONT COVER: Featured Bees
Common Eastern Bumble Bee,
Bombus imp atiens
Blue-Green Sweat Bee, Augochlora pura
Small Mining Bee, Andrena nasonii
Large Mining Bee, Andrena regularis
Hornfaced Bee, Osmia cornifrons
This publicaon is supported, in part, with funding from the
Northeastern IPM Center (NortheastIPM.org) and the USDA Naonal
Instute of Food and Agriculture.
Mission of the Center: The Northeastern Integrated Pest Management Center fosters the
development and adopon of IPM, a science-based approach to managing pests in ways that
generate economic, environmental, and human health benets. The Center works in partnership
with stakeholders from agricultural, urban, and rural sengs to idenfy and address regional
priories for research, educaon, and outreach.
bee species are solitary, and
pollen and nectar, and then lay
then sealed in the chamber and
the nest and restart the cycle.
WIN-WIN FOR WILD BEES AND GROWERS?
Pollinators are declining worldwide, as are their pollinaon services9. Eastern orchards
have a unique opportunity to simultaneously conserve wild bee populaons and to
benet from their contribuon to fruit pollinaon. The mixed eastern landscape,
comprised of orchard blocks interspersed with woodlots, fallow elds and hedgerows,
provides bees with needed natural habitat in close proximity to orchards. Simply
protecng bee resources that already exist on grower lands is an important rst step
in ensuring wild bee pollinaon. By encouraging wild bee abundance and diversity,
agricultural growers may be able to buer rising honey bee rental costs (a win for
farmers), while creang an environment that beer supports both wild and commercial
bees (a win for all bees).
IN THIS BOOKLET YOU WILL FIND…
on nectar and pollen.
THE MOST COMMON BEES IN YOUR ORCHARD
The most important wild pollinators of apple are ground-nesng bees. Ground-nesters
excavate underground nests, comprised of tunnels and egg chambers where the young
develop – a nesng strategy shared by 70% of bees worldwide. To avoid moisture-loving
microbes that aack food and young, nests are built in well-drained soils. These nests
are dicult to nd because the entrance is normally a simple hole in the ground, just
big enough for the bee to move in and out.
Well-drained soil with access to bare ground.
Tilling, mulching, toxic herbicides like Paraquat (trade name
Gramoxone), and compacon.
Protect nesng sites from above threats and improve access to
bare soil; provide oral resources through the growing season.
LARGE MINING BEES (Andrena spp.)
SMALL MINING BEES (Andrena spp.)
DARK SWEAT BEES
(Lasioglossum spp., Halictus spp.)
BLUE-GREEN SWEAT BEES
(Augochlora pura, Agapostemon spp.,
Augochlorell a aurata)
FORAGING: SOCIALITY: FLIGHT RANGE:
Specialist Solitary Social
THE MOST COMMON BEES IN YOUR ORCHARD
This bee group is most familiar to us and includes honey bees and bumble bees. Such
bees do not excavate their own nest, but nd exisng cavies to house their social
colonies and honey supplies. Because these bees are acve all summer long, they
require constant (or at least long term) oral resources in the vicinity of the hive.
Cavies in trees, in wooden structures or below-ground.
Habitat loss (i.e., inadequate nesng and food sites), pescide dri.
Protect or enhance adjacent, woody natural areas; provide oral
resources through the growing season; establish 20- buer for dri.
As their name implies, these bees either excavate tunnels in wood (e.g., carpenter bees)
or use abandoned cavies, such as beetle burrows, or even cracks in masonry (e.g., mason
bees). Among the most important nave (and somemes managed) pollinators are mason
bees (genus Osmia). Mason bees are eecve apple pollinators and populaons can be
increased through the use of arcial nesng materials. For more informaon on mason
bee biology and management, see Bosch & Kemp 2001 (listed below under secon entled
“MORE POLLINATOR CONSERVATION RESOURCES”).
Stems, trees, rong logs, wooden structures or old masonry.
Habitat loss (i.e., not enough nesng sites) and pescide dri.
Protect or enhance adjacent, woody natural areas and old stone
walls; provide nesng materials; maintain oral resources through the growing
season; establish a 20- buer for dri.
FORAGING: SOCIALITY: FLIGHT RANGE:
Specialist Solitary Social
BUMBLE BEES (Bombus spp.)
produced later once the colony is established. In contrast,
commercial colonies are raised indoors and contain both
LARGE CARPENTER BEES
West, the blue orchard bee, Osmia lignaria
bee, O. cornifrons
HONEY BEES (Apis mellifera)
SMALL CARPENTER BEES (Ceratina spp.)
MASON BEES (Osmia spp.)
IN ORDER FOR WILD BEES TO THRIVE,
THREE BASIC NEEDS MUST BE MET:
You may already take great care to provide these needs for honey bees, but wild bees
are unique in that they cannot be taken in and out of the orchard at will, so they must
be considered beyond the short bloom period. Moreover, wild bees are more vulnerable
because, unlike honey bees that send workers to forage, wild bee foragers are the
reproducing individuals for that populaon.
PROTECT AND ENHANCE POLLINATOR FOOD SOURCES
Wild bees require a connuous and diverse source of pollen and nectar to sustain
themselves and their young. Because they live longer than the short apple bloom, it is
crical that other oral resources are available within ight distance from your orchard.
protect oral resources already available on your land:
increase oral resources on your property to
build pollinator populaons. Floral planngs come in various
USDA Plant Materials Centers, Xerces Society and university
researchers are developing region-specic plant mixes for
pollinators; funding is available for such planngs on farms
(discussed below). Flip to pages 14 and 15 for a guide to
plants that benet orchard pollinators.
GOVERNMENT COST-SHARE PROGRAMS
USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservaon Service (NRCS)
provide funding opportunies for individual farmers to defray the costs of improving
lands for pollinators:
1. Conservaon Reserve Program (CRP) is a land rerement program that aims to
enhance wildlife habitat.
rp. Contact your local USDA FSA service center to apply.
2. Environmental Quality Iniaves Program (EQIP) supports conservaon
pracces that improve environmental quality of land.
See website for state-specic applicaon instrucons.
3. Wildlife Habitat Incenves Program (WHIP) funds establishment and
improvement of wildlife habitat.
Contact your local USDA NRCS service center to apply.
BEE & BLOOM PHENOLOGY*
BLOOM GROUND NESTERS CAVITY NESTERS TUNNEL NESTERS
Large mining Bees
Small Mining Bees
Dark Sweat Bees
Blue-Green Sweat Bees
Large Carpenter Bees
Small Carpenter Bees
March April May June July August Septeber October November December
Pollinator planting jointly
established by the Xerces Society,
USDA NRCS, and the University of
New Hampshire Extension.
* Timing is generalized for the eastern U.S. and will vary according to your latitude and microclimate.
In general, be mindful that wild bees are present on farms before and aer the apple
bloom and may even be nesng within tree rows. On pages 16 and 17, you will nd a
table that ranks bee toxicity of pescides most commonly used in orchards.
MORE POLLINATOR CONSERVATION RESOURCES…
• The Xerces Society, , provides a wealth of informaon on pollinator
conservaon, including downloadable factsheets and publicaons, as well as links to
• Pollinator Partnership, , is a non-prot coalion dedicated to the
conservaon of North American pollinators. Check out their resources for farming.
• Penn State University’s Center for Pollinator Research,,
conducts research and outreach for wild and managed pollinators. Latest news on CCD
and outreach informaon are found here.
• Cornell University’s Wild Pollinator Program, ,
serves as a portal to research and outreach about non-honey bee pollinators of New
York crops and nave plants.
• Bosch, J. and W. Kemp. 2001. How to Manage the Blue Orchard Bee as an Orchard
Pollinator. The Naonal Outreach Arm of USDA-SARE, Handbook Series, Book 5.
Sustainable Agriculture Network, Naonal Agricultural Library, Beltsville, MD.
• Mader, E., M. Shepherd, M. Vaughan, S.H. Black and G. LeBuhn. 2011. Aracng Nave
Pollinators. Storey Press.
• Mader, E., M. Spivak and E. Evans. 2010. Managing Alternave Pollinators: A Handbook
for Beekeepers, Growers, and Conservaonists, SARE Handbook 11, copublished by
SARE and NRAES.
• Reidl, H., E. Johansen, L. Brewer and J. Barbour. 2006. How to Reduce Bee Poisoning
from Pescides. Oregon State University.
• USDA NRCS. 2009. New England Biology Technical Note: Pollinator Biology and Habitat.
• Vaughan, M., M. Shepherd, C. Kremen, and S.H. Black. 2007. Farming for Bees:
Guidelines for Providing Nave Bee Habitat on Farms. 2nd ed.
PROVIDE SAFE NESTING SITES
The best way to provide safe nesng is to maximize undisturbed areas around your
farm. Ground nesters benet most if areas with semi-barrren, sandy soils are protected
from compacon or lling. Both tunnel- and cavity-nesters nest in or at the edge of
woody semi-natural or natural areas, as well as in old stone walls and sheds.
HOW TO CREATE NEW NESTING SITES
Shallow ll well-drained areas once and maintain
bare ground with glyphosate.
Pile old trees that are pulled near orchard.
Place self-made or purchased stem nests made
from tubes or drilled wood close to orchard but
safe from pescide dri. Start small to see if
tunnel-nesters are in your area. See Mader et al.
201010 for further informaon.
Pile old trees that are pulled near orchard.
Do not destroy rodent holes
PROTECT BEES FROM PESTICIDES
Pescides, including fungicides and even some herbicides, are a general danger to bees,
but wild bees are more impacted because they reproduce more slowly than honey bees
and each wild bee is not only a worker but also a reproducer. Here are some general
guidelines to protect bees from pescides:
Cellophane bee at the
entrance of her ground nest.
Block nest for mason bees by
a pear tree.
Bumble bee nest in a pile of
old leaves and grass.
FORAGE PLANTS FOR WILD POLLINATORS
COMMON NAME SPECIES NAME FORM
Flowering SeASon: SPRING SUMMER
Both wild and commercial bees would benet from increased oral resources on your land.
Choose combinaons of plants, so that dierent ower types are available throughout the enre
growing season. The species recommended below are all eastern nave perennials.
TOXICITY OF PESTICIDES TO BEES
(NOTE: TOXICITY RATINGS BASED ON HONEY BEE TESTS)
Disclaimer: These data mostly incorporate studies looking at acute, short-term adult toxicity.
The eects on other life stages from feeding on contaminated pollen might be dierent in
chronic exposure. For example, larvae exposed to some IGRs could have developmental and
reproducve eects including reducons in fecundity and ferlity. Also, eects on non-honey
bee, pollinang insects are not well known.
Note: On-going research has recently shown that even the inert ingredients that are part of the pescide formulaon can be toxic to
honey bees by impairing their ability to learn. Of the inert ingredients tested, organosilicone surfactants/adjuvants were most toxic.
Other non-ionic surfactants showed some toxicity and crop oils were least toxic.
CHEMICAL CLASS/GROUP EXAMPLES OF COMMON NAMES EXAMPLES OF TRADE NAMES NON LOW MODERATE HIGH
dimethoate, malathion, methidathion, phosmet
Bacillus thuringiensis, Cydia pomonella
1 Morse, R. A. & Calderone, N. W. The value of honey bees as pollinators of U.S. crops in 2000. Bee
Culture, 1-15 (2000).
2 Losey, J. E. & Vaughan, M. The economic value of ecological services provided by insects. Bioscience
56, 311-323 (2006).
3 Park, M., Orr, M. & Danforth, B. in New York Fruit Quarterly Vol. 18 21-25 (New York State
Horcultural Society, Geneva, NY, 2010).
4 Joshi, N. K., Biddinger, D. & Rajoe, E. G. in 10th Internaonal Pollinaon Symposium (Puebla,
5 Bosch, J. & Kemp, K. How to Manage the Blue Orchard Bee, as an Orchard Pollinator. (Sustainable
Agriculture Network, 2001).
6 Winfree, R., Williams, N. M., Dusho, J. & Kremen, C. Nave bees provide insurance against ongoing
honey bee losses. Ecology Leers 10, 1105-1113 (2007).
7 Thomson, J. D. & Goodell, K. Pollen removal and deposion by honeybee and bumblebee visitors to
apple and almond owers. Journal of Applied Ecology 38, 1032-1044 (2001).
8 Winfree, R. & Kremen, C. Are ecosystem services stabilized by dierences among species? A test using
crop pollinaon. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 276, 229-237 (2009).
9 Pos, S. G. et al. Global pollinator declines: trends, impacts and drivers. Trends in Ecology and
Evoluon 25, 345-353 (2010).
10 Mader, E., Spivak, M. & Evans, E. in SARE Handbook 11 (copublished by SARE and NRAES, 2010).
Aside from those taken from public domain, photos were used with permission from the following
individuals, who maintain copyright privileges.
4: Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, Albert F. W. Vick, Lady Bird Johnson Wildower Center.
5: Bee life cycle, Dennis Briggs and Robbin Thorp (pupa), UC Davis; boom le, Colletes inaequalis,
John Ascher, www.discoverlife.org; boom right, Andrena spp., Kent Loeer, Cornell
6: Large and small mining bees, Andrena spp., Kent Loeer, Cornell University.
7: Cellophane bee, Colletes inaequalis, Alberto Lopez; dark sweat bee, Lasioglossum spp. and
Halictus spp., Kent Loeer, Cornell University; blue-green sweat bee, Augochlora pura, Tom
8: Bumble bee, Bombus impaens, Tom Murray, www.pBase.org; honey bee, Apis mellifera, Kent
Loeer, Cornell University.
9: Large carpenter bee, Xylocopa virginica, Kent Loeer, Cornell University; small carpenter bee,
Cerana dupla, JelleDevalez, www.discoverlife.org; mason bee, Osmia cornifrons, USDA ARS.
10: Bumble bee on Monarda stulosa, Eric Mader, The Xerces Society.
11: Pollinator planng, Don Keirstead (USDA-NRCS).
12: Le, cellophane bee nest, Margarita Lopez-Uribe; center, block nest, Mahew Shepherd, The
Xerces Society; right, bumble bee nest, Al Eggenberger.
14: Service berry, Amelanchier spp., David G. Smith, www.delawarewildowers.org; Pussy willow,
Salix discolor, Albert F. W. Vick, Lady Bird Johnson Wildower Center; Lupine, Lupinus
perennis, W. D. Bransford, Lady Bird Johnson Wildower Center; Basswood, Tilia Americana,
Toby Alexander/USDA-NRCS; Lance-leaf coreopsis, Coreopsis lanceolata, David Cappaert,
Michigan State University, Bugwood.org; Smooth penstemon, Penstemon digitalis, David G.
Smith, www.delawarewildowers.org; Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, Albert F. W. Vick, Lady
Bird Johnson Wildower Center.
15: Purple coneower, Echinacea purpurea, Joseph A. Marcus, Lady Bird Johnson Wildower Center;
Wild bergamot, Monarda stulosa, Catherine Herms, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.
org; Joe Pye weed, Eupatorium purpureum, Mahew Shepherd, The Xerces Society;
Blue giant hyssop, Agastache foeniculum, Andy and Sally Wasowski, Lady Bird Johnson
Wildower Center; White meadowsweet, Spiraea alba sub. lafolia, J.S. Peterson, USDA-
NRCS PLANTS Database; New England aster, Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, Pennsylvania
Department of Conservaon and Natural Resources, Forestry Archive, Bugwood.org.