Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair(s)

Michael E. Pfrender


Michael E. Pfrender


Theresa L. Pitts-Singer


William P. Kemp


Carl D. Cheney


Edward W. Evans


Over the last several decades, the use of solitary bees as an alternative to honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) for pollination of commercial crops has increased, in part as a response to ongoing problems faced by commercial honey bee populations. Two solitary bee species have exhibited great commercial potential: the blue orchard bee, Osmia lignaria Say, and the alfalfa leafcutting bee, Megachile rotundata Fabricius (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae). However, growth of O. lignaria and M. rotundata populations is limited in commercial systems, mainly due to low establishment of females at provided nesting sites, possibly due to mortality, dispersal, or other causes.

Rough handling of pre-emergent bees may possibly contribute to post-emergence dispersal in O. lignaria. The current work addressed this hypothesis by using shaking as a proxy for rough handling. However, shaken bees did not establish fewer nests than unshaken bees. Therefore, commercial fruit growers using O. lignaria as pollinators should be able to remove cocoons from their nests as part of their management plan, without fear of increasing bee dispersal.

When searching for a nest site, M. rotundata females are known to be attracted to previously used nest materials. The current work verified the attraction of M. rotundata females to old conspecific nests. It also sought to determine which nest components were most attractive to females. It was found that all components were equally attractive.

It may be useful to establish these species' learning abilities in a laboratory setting. The current work attempted to design a conditioning protocol for solitary bees. Initially, a method utilizing the proboscis extension reflex was sought. However, O. lignaria and M. rotundata did not reflexively extend their proboscises upon antennal stimulation with sucrose solution. Therefore, another method of conditioning was implemented. Bees were conditioned to respond to floral odors in a feeding bioassay. Results are compared for both species, as well as for males and females.

The research completed for this dissertation may provide helpful information for commercial managers of solitary bees seeking to decrease both bee dispersal and the incidence of disease and parasites.



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