Gordon Wardell, Paramount Farming's lead bee biologist on this experiment, said the propagation project began five years ago, as Colony Collapse Disorder began seriously impacting honeybee hives.
The goal is to domesticate wild mason bees so as to assure a steady, predictable supply of these supplementary pollinators.
The domestication process is complex and begins with trapping mason bees in the wild.
negotiated with bee trappers in the Pacific Northwest, but found their prices too high.
now works with bee trappers in Utah and Idaho.
"We don't want to overstress the resource," Wardell
team hope a generation of bees capable of sustaining commercially viable numbers will emerge.
Other obstacles encountered by the experimental program include natural predators such as wasps and beetles, which feed on the bees, as well as pesticide and fungicide spraying in proximity to nests and plants that the bees pollinate.
There are many variables still to work with as far as optimizing mason bee propagation, but Wardell
team will find the right combination that'll enable them to "get through the genetic bottleneck" and provide growers with a commercially viable supply of domesticated mason bees. •