Pollinating Outdoor Crops Using Western Bumblebees

Bumblebees have been successfully used worldwide for more than two decades for the pollination of protected crops, largely in greenhouse tomato production. In Europe,where growers can find native species on the market, bumblebees have been used as a reliable alternative to honey bee pollination in open-field crops.  Strawberry, blueberry, cranberry, raspberry, apple, pear, cherry and apricot are among the many field crops that benefit from the efficient work of bumblebees. In North America, up to now, the use of bumblebees has been limited to greenhouses due to environmental concerns regarding the potential negative effects of releasing non-native species on populations of native bumblebees and other pollinators. As the availability of honey bees is decreasing, due mainly to bee health issues, the demand for alternative pollinators in open-field crops is on the rise.  The company pioneering in rearing and marketing of bumblebees as alternative pollinators for more than 25 years, Biobest Biological Systems, is addressing this need by developing a Western bumblebee species for use in outdoor crops.  Several Western species have been collected and are now being reared successfully at Biobest facilities. The next step is the selection of an appropriate candidate species for the US-Canada market.  For that purpose, Biobest is carrying out trials during the spring of 2013 in order to select the species of bumblebees that proves most successful in crop pollination. North American fruit growers may soon take advantage of the use of the Western bumblebee to address the shortage of honey bees and guarantee crop yields.

January 2023