Red Mason Bee (Osmia rufa)
Testing the bred population (2005 2007)
The population of the red mason bee bred in the BioDar company was tested by the Oxford University in England, Belgium and Spain. The tests conducted in Poland in the frame of the same programme aimed at the evaluation of the usefulness of the red mason bee for pollinating fruit trees in the commune Łącko (Malopolskie Voivodship). The results of tests confirmed the great suitability of our bees for pollinating pome and stone trees as well as berry shrubs. The fruit growers participating in the tests emphasised that the fruit got with the help of the bees delivered to them were bigger, better formed as well as were better off while stored (they contained more calcium and were subject to physiological diseases to a lesser degree).Establishing the kind of the kept breed (2007)
In the area of the geographical appearance of the red mason bee, 3 subspecies have been distinguished: Osmia rufa=bicornis ssp. bicornis, O. bicornis ssp. cornigera, O. bicornis ssp. fracticornis. In the Cultural Farm BioDar, there have been conducted breeding works with the subspecies Osmia rufa=bicornis ssp. cornigera, which is more resistant to harsh winters of the continental type (withstands to minus 39°C) and unstable weather in early spring (alternately occurring long lasting periods of warmer and colder weather).Determination of sex ratio (1999-2013)
The research concerning the sex structure is significant from a practical point of view. Yet breeders offering reproductive material of the mason bee hardly ever inform buyers about it, although this indicator is easy to determine. This information make possible economic management of the entire population and providing the due number of females on cultivations, guaranteeing full pollination of plants (only females are the effective plant pollinators). The knowledge concerning the sex ratio enables a purchase of a smaller quantity of cocoons but of higher value. Literature data indicate that the percentage of females in the population bred using reed amounts to 25-39% (the perfect ratio is 50/50%). Some authors overstate the share of females up to 50% and even more, but do not report, that this indicator was counted in relation to the number if emerged bees and not to the total number of incubated cocoons (the lived off and badly developed ones are not taken into account), which is important for gardeners. In our tests, the percentage of females developed in the nesting trays runs at 40-47% (calculations are based on the number of all cocoons).Determination of the percentage of not emerged bees (1999-2013)
One can read in the subject literature that the percentage of not emerged bees amounts to 9-17%. Only by a long lasting breeding programme and careful yearly selection of the breeding material this rate is falling to about 5%. In the Cultural Farm BioDar, this rate has run at the level of 2-3% for many years. The achieved result is a consequence of the high sanitary level of apiary areas (small number of parasites), careful selection and disinfection of cocoons as well as applying cocoon release boxes. A small increase in the number of negatively assessed cocoons happens only in wet years, when there is a greater threat of the mould fungi overgrowing wet pollen.Determination of the multiplication factor of the population (1989-2013)
The growth rate of the population measured by the ratio of the numbers of cocoons collected after the season to the laid out ones depends mainly on the genetic value (reproductive capacity) of the kept biological material, climatic conditions during the flights of bees (number of cold and rainy days), the abundance of food available in the immediate vicinity and resistance to parasites and diseases. In the literature, one can find information that this ratio amounts to 1.7/2.8/3.1/4.5-fold. Research conducted in five locations with different nutrient conditions showed that the population bred by BioDar company had a very large potential for growth. There was namely 4.3-5.1-fold increase in the population (only in the less favourable weather conditions and at poorer food resources there was 3-4-fold increase in the population). In the best years, characterized by dry and hot springs (1992, 2008), this ratio reached values 6.7 and 6.3 respectively.Nesting arrangement
Improvement of the nesting box design (1999, 2009-2013)
The first works on the nesting box were carried out in the period when polystyrene trays, susceptible to damage, were used as the nesting material. Back then, it was a wooden box, in which the nesting material set together was placed. Substantial works aimed at facilitating breeding have begun upon the implementation of the BioDar System nesting trays. Their result is:
- determination of the optimal size of the nesting arrangement,
- improvement of the functionality of the nesting box by equipping it with a carry handle,
- equipping the nesting box with a cover protecting the nests from parasites and predators,
- elaboration of an efficient ventilation system protecting the nest during hot summer days (slot in the front cover and in the rear wall),
- improving the aesthetics of the box (determination of the optimum colour) and determination of the type of paint safe for bees.
|Research period||Research subject||Conclusions|
|1989-1997||Common reed stems cut up into sections blinded with an elbow at one end; stems of Polygonum and Heracleum plants||A large labour consumption connected with preparation of nests (the annual collecting, selection, deleafing and cutting stems of reed); risk of allergic reactions when tearing nests apart and extracting cocoons; necessity of polishing nerve fibres irritating bees in stems of Heracleum plants; need to remove the parchment liners from the internal channels of reed|
|1997-1999||Drilled logs, channels in cavity bricks||Inability to draw out the cocoons from nests and to select them, problems with getting rid of pests and parasites|
|1999-2001||Bundles of extruded polystyrene tiles||Susceptibility to damage; reluctant settling by females|
|2001-2003||Precast plaster and polystyrene-cement tiles||Susceptibility to damage; greater weight, large volume requiring significant storage space|
|2003-2005||Properly channelled planks of wood (pine, spruce, maple, linden, poplar, alder, willow)||Susceptibility to moisture deformation; problems with obtaining a smooth surface and getting rid of mites; need of impregnation of each plank|
|2005-2007||Paper tubes blinded with a plaster plug, card-board tubes ended with a plastic plug||Difficulty with removing the cocoons; mixing the healthy cocoons with ones infested with mites, mould overgrowing nests and tubes due to the moist pollen|
|2007-2008||Properly channelled MDF boards||Susceptibility to moisture deformation; problems with maintaining tightness and with cleaning|
|2008-2009||Plane nests built of cardboard tiles and wooden slats||Remarks as above|
|2009-now||BioDar System nesting trays||Lightness, good sanitary conditions, ease of keeping clean, good quality of cocoons|
Development works concerning nesting trays
- Elaboration of a reusable nesting tray (2009). Introduction of the nesting tray has been a breakthrough in the mason bee breeding. The significant advantages associated with its usage include: a significant reduction in the workload, simplicity of operation and convenience of application, an aesthetic design, increasing work safety during the extraction of cocoons from the nests.
- Usage of the nesting trays in different colours (2013). Alternate placing nesting trays of different colours in the sets helps the bees to locate settled channels.
- Carrying out tests with attractants increasing interest of bees in the put out nesting material (2001-2013). Since 2013 all the nesting trays offered for sale have been covered with an attractant encouraging females to make nests (after the first use of the nesting trays the females no longer need a medium stimulating settling them).
Elaboration of technical assumptions for the cocoon release box (2005)
From among several elaborated versions of boxes for the bees emergence, recipients are offered a solution that makes it possible to eliminate red mason bee parasites developing in its cocoons.Participation in quality systems
Developing an effective method to control red mason bee mites Chaetodactylus osmie (Duf.) (1998-2005, 2012)
When removing the cocoons from the nests infested with mites, almost always comes to the spread of these parasites. Infection of cocoons with mites is promoted by the use of the same tools, and even the same worktop on which the equipment is placed and the nests are opened.
In 1998-2005, there was conducted extensive research on effective methods of fighting red mason bee mites. The operating strategy consisted in:
- taking into account the principles of veterinary prophylactics,
- adaptation of certain components of the HACCP system to the needs of breeding,
- implementation of the effective methods of parasite treatment by means of selective agents, ensuring sanitary effect, applied safely for the bees.
Thanks to implementation of the effective system of protection since 2005, all the cocoons, that are in the sales offer of the Cultural Farm BioDar are subject to treatments eliminating troublesome mites.Registration of the breeding by the District Veterinary Officer in Cracow (2013).
The process of the registration of the BioDar company breeding has been completed with the assignment of the veterinary identification number.Examination of the health conditions of cocoons and bees (since 2013)
Since 2013 inspection of the health of cocoons and bees has been carried out by the Department of Veterinary Hygiene in Krakow.Currently conducted development works:
Accelerating the process of bees emergence (2012-now)
A key issue while using mason bee is to understand the dynamics of emergence of both sexes (especially females). Both literature data and our studies show that emergence of all males occurs in the first 8-12 days after taking the cocoons out from the refrigerator and placing them at the cultivation area. The first females emerge without special incubation with a delay of 4-7 and sometimes up to 10 days. Depending on the weather, the process of emergence of all the females lasts up to 18 days. Therefore, the bees should be placed at the cultivated area at least 2-3 weeks before the beginning of blooming time. For production reasons, it is important to accelerate the emergence of females from nests. Since 2012, we have been working on technical solutions to shorten this period to a few days.