“New” Bees Are all the Buzz

August 13, 2015 at 12:33 pm 2 comments

Photo via beekeeping101.psu.edu

Photo via beekeeping101.psu.edu

Maryann Frazier has done research on the declining honeybee population in America for years—we actually wrote about her work in our May/June 2007 issue. Frazier ’80, ’83g, a senior extension associate in the College of Ag, is still trying to figure out why these tiny-but-vital members of our ecosystem are dying off. It’s been a difficult process, but recently, members of her research team have stumbled across something hopeful: bees that could be more productive pollinators than honeybees.

According to NPR, Dave Biddinger ’93g is studying Japanese orchard bees, a type of “osmia” bee, and he claims that one of these “all-star bees” can do the work of “roughly 80 honeybees.”

“The honeybee is a little bit lazy,” Biddinger says. “It will only maybe visit one or two flowers per minute. An osmia will do up to 15 flowers per minute … We’ve seen with osmia that they can carry up to 100 times more pollen than what a honeybee can.”

These aren’t the only bees making an impact on Penn State researchers: Grad student Carley Miller is giddy over squash bees she’s observed, calling them “Wall Street bees” because of how quickly they fly around from one place to the next. There’s still a long way to go before either of these little workers can replace honeybees, but they’ve got these Penn State scientists feeling optimistic.

Bill DiFilippo, online editor

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