The Odessa Record -

Bees, bees and more bees buzzin' about


--Photo courtesy of Jim Boss.

A bee hut awaits the arrival of leafcutter bees, brought in to pollinate alfalfa plants.

People driving through the countryside outside of Odessa may have wondered what the purpose was of those many small wooden trailers parked in several of the fields off Batum Road and elsewhere. On a recent trip to Moses Lake, Odessa resident Jim Boss saw them in irrigated circles belonging to Keith and Leanna Schafer's company Seed-Rite, Inc. He contacted the Schafers and started asking questions. The huts are homes for alfalfa leafcutter bees and are called variously bee huts, houses, hotels, nests, condos and other such descriptive terms.

The summer leafcutter bees hatch within these structures, going out from them to pollinate the blooming alfalfa plants all around them. They carry loose, dry pollen on their abdomens and distribute it as they navigate from blossom to blossom.

Inside a tube-shaped nesting site, these gentle, solitary, gregarious leafcutter bees construct cells out of round pieces of leaves that become food for the larva that hatches from the egg laid in each cell. The leafcutter bee does not produce honey. It is valued solely for its superior ability to pollinate alfalfa, which must take place in order for the plant to produce seeds.

At the end of the summer the larvae are removed from the bee huts and store in a dry, cool place until the following June when the whole process starts over again.

Seed-Rite employee Nick Stewart was setting out trays of the bees' tubular nests inside the huts. Once a certain temperature is reached, the larvae perform their conversion to bees, leave the hut and do what they were born to do, pollinate the alfalfa field in which they reside.


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