Production of native bumble bees for pollination of west coast crops

Award Information
Agency: Department of Agriculture
Branch: N/A
Contract: 2011-00022
Agency Tracking Number: 2011-00022
Amount: $100,000.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Awards Year: 2011
Solicitation Year: 2011
Solicitation Topic Code: 8.2
Solicitation Number: N/A
Small Business Information
30807 DECKER RIDGE RD, Corvallis, OR, 97333-9358
DUNS: 019481765
HUBZone Owned: N
Woman Owned: Y
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: N
Principal Investigator
 Lynn Royce
 (541) 929-5337
Business Contact
 Lynn Royce
Title: President
Phone: (541) 929-5337
Research Institution
Farmers in the USA have largely depended on the European honey bee, Apis mellifera, for crop pollination. In recent years, Varroa mites, Tracheal mites, Nosema, Viruses and Colony Collapse Disorder have reduced the availability of honey bee colonies. This has created a critical need for additional managed pollinators. Mason bees, leaf cutter bees and bumble bees are being managed to varying extents. Of these, bumble bees have the best economic potential as pollinators. They are exceptional pollinators for crops such as blueberries that require buzz pollination and for crops raised in greenhouses where honey bees are not effective. The US has over 40 bumble bee species but only one species, B. impatiens, is available commercially. This species is endemic to the Midwest and the East, and is thus not available to growers in western states (such as Oregon) that do not permit the introduction of non-native bees due to concerns about pathogens. Nationwide concerns about bumble bee declines have led scientists to petition the USDA to ban movement of B.impatiens to the entire west coast. An urgent need for commercial production of west coast bumble bee species exists. In western Oregon, several native bumble bee species are thriving but timing, numbers & consistency are not manageable with wild bumble bees. Bumble bee species endemic to western US have been successfully raised in captivity for research purposes but tactics need to be developed for effective and economical commercial production. The objectives of the current research proposed are: 1) Development of techniques for breaking diapause and enhancing nest initiation by queens, and growth and development of colonies; 2). Comparison of pathogen load in wild and captive-reared bumble bees, and 3). Evaluation of tactics for overwintering queens. The research will focus on three west coast species, B. vosnesenskii, B. mixtus, and B. nevadensis, and will be conducted by Mite Bee Farm, Inc. and Oregon State University (OSU). Mite Bee Farm, Inc., a woman-owned small business, is currently engaged in honey bee queen production will diversify its operations by the addition of bumble bee rearing. A research associate with experience in bumble bee rearing from OSU will be hired for support in achieving the objectives above. The techniques and products developed by Mite Bee Farm, Inc. from this research will greatly enhance commercialization of west coast bumble bee species for producers of a great diversity of fruit and vegetable crops. The project is aligned with USDA AFRI priority of Global Food Security and Hunger as new technologies will be developed that will enhance production of foods for humans and livestock. It will provide valuable data for addressing the petition submitted to USDA related to restriction of movement of B. impatiens to the west for reducing risks associated with pathogen movement. If alternative west coast bumble bee species are available commercially, the ban, if implemented, will not have negative economic impacts on west coast producers of bee-pollinated crops.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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