Leaf Cutter Bees – Super Hero Pollinators!
When Jay Williams from Williams Honey Farm approached us about a pollination test this Summer season for Solitary Bees (Mason & Leaf Cutter Bees), we didn’t really know what to expect, but he made it very easy. Jay basically did all the work and we reaped all the benefits. We only paid him for cost of the bees and materials. He placed two T-Post Hives on our farm. One T-post Hive was in the area of our U-Pick Community Garden and the other post hive was in our rental gardens. (We rent plots to local people who are either learning how to garden or do not have the space at their homes or apartment communities.) Jay placed approximately 1,000 Leaf Cutter cocoons and bees at each T-Post Hive for the test.
He placed the bees in early June and they began their pollination cycle. We have never seen anything like it before! We are only estimating, but feel that they at least tripled our pollination rate. We began to feel overwhelmed because we do not have a large enough staff (just the two of us and two volunteers) to keep up with the production of vegetables we were picking every day…much more than in the previous 5 years we have been open. We started out with 6 rows of green beans (4 rows less than last year) and we were not able to pick all of the green beans on two of the rows, before they got dry on the vine…there were just so many beans. We are determined next year to be more prepared, because we lost a lot of veggies…we just couldn’t harvest it all!
We sold more squash, zucchini, tomatoes, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, and berries than any previous year we have been open and we feel it is due in a large part to the increased pollination of the leaf cutter bees.
We opened the garden in mid-June and closed in 6 weeks, 2 weeks earlier than usual. Increased pollination may have played a part, but the heat and excessive rain definitely accelerated plant deterioration.
Even though we closed two weeks earlier than usual…we still increased our sales 35% above 2015 (and 2015 was higher than any previous year). We had more produce than we could sell so, we also donated almost 1,000 pounds of produce (estimated worth of $1,000) to OneGenAway (www.onegenaway.com) which distributes food throughout our community to the needy and homeless. We felt very blessed this year!
If you have an interest in getting some Solitary Bees (Mason and/or Leaf Cutter) for your farm, garden or landscape, we definitely recommend Jay Williams and his little Super Hero Pollinators. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.