In Japan, hornfaced bees have been used since the 1960's as commercial pollinators of apple (Malus domestica) and cherry (Prunus spp.) trees. Currently, these bees are used to pollinate 75% of Japan's apple orchards. Since their introduction to the United States, the hornfaced bee has been managed to pollinate fruit orchards, particularly apple trees. Currently research is being conducted to determine if these bees could also be used as commercial mustard seed (Brassica spp.) pollinators. In addition to managed crops, hornfaced bees also pollinate ornamental plants like crabapple (Malus spp.) and bush honeysuckle (Diervilla spp.).
Hornfaced bees are particularly attractive as commercial pollinators for several reasons. These bees are relatively easy to handle, because they are mild-tempered and non-aggressive. They are easy to manage; in the wild, they are solitary ground nesters, but they adapt to artificial nests made of cardboard tubes and wood blocks. Population size doubles or triples yearly, depending on the number of nest sites available. Hornfaced bees are also efficient pollinators, even more so than honey bees in some instances. Both male and female hornfaced bees visit and pollinate flowers; in honey bee populations, only female worker bees collect pollen. Hornfaced bees will fly in cool and cloudy weather, unlike honey bees. So far, hornfaced bees are unaffected by the mites and diseases that are currently affecting honey bee populations. Additionally, studies have shown that hornfaced bees spend more time per flower and do a more thorough job of pollination than honey bees (Apis mellifera). Finally, far fewer hornfaced bees than honey bees are needed to provide pollination services - depending on the crop, about 250-400 nesting hornfaced females per acre are required whereas one strong hive, between 25,000 and 30,000, of honey bees per acre are required.
- How to Manage the Blue Orchard Bee: As an Orchard Pollinator, J. Bosch and W. Kemp, Sustainable Agriculture Network, 2001
- Basic Biology and Management of the Japanese Hornfaced Bee, Mid-Atlantic Apicultural Research and Extension Consortium
- A bee that likes cold weather?, Melissa Hansen, Good Fruit Grower Magazine, March 15, 2006, Vol. 57, No. 6
- Management of Hornfaced Bees for Orchard Pollination, Suzanne W. T. Batra, PollinatorParadise.com, March 1997.
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