Several species of mason bees are currently being used or are being studied for use as commercial pollinators. The hornfaced bee ( Osmia cornifrons ) is the primary pollinator of apple orchards in Japan, and has been cultivated for this purpose. It was introduced to the United States in the 1970's and is managed commercially to pollinate apple orchards in California, Oregon, and parts of the northeastern United States. The blue orchard bee ( Osmia lignaria ) is a great pollinator of early spring crops, and is managed commercially because it is easily reared, is a highly efficient pollinator, and requires fewer bees to pollinate crops than honey bees. The blueberry bee ( Osmia ribifloris ) is being evaluated as a commercial pollinator of blueberry in the eastern United States.
Mason bees make good commercial pollinators for several reasons. These bees naturally make nests in tunnels in wood and other cavities; this nesting habitat is easy to mimic and mason bees accept artificial nests. Additionally, these bees are low cost and require little care. In some cases mason bees are actually better pollinators than honey bees (Apis mellifera) because they fly in cooler weather and individual mason bees move more between trees.
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