Native managed bees can improve crop pollination, but a general framework for evaluating the associated economic costs and benefits has not been developed. We conducted a cost–benefit analysis to assess how managing blue orchard bees (Osmia lignaria Say [Hymenoptera: Megachildae]) alongside honey bees (Apis mellifera Linnaeus [Hymenoptera: Apidae]) can affect profits for almond growers in California. Specifically, we studied how adjusting three strategies can influence profits: (1) number of released O. lignaria bees, (2) density of artificial nest boxes, and (3) number of nest cavities (tubes) per box. We developed an ecological model for the effects of pollinator activity on almond yields, validated the model with published data, and then estimated changes in profits for different management strategies. Our model shows that almond yields increase with O. lignaria foraging density, even where honey bees are already in use. Our cost–benefit analysis shows that profit ranged from −US$1,800 to US$2,800/ acre given different combinations of the three strategies. Adding nest boxes had the greatest effect; we predict an increase in profit between low and high nest box density strategies (2.5 and 10 boxes/acre). In fact, the number of released bees and the availability of nest tubes had relatively small effects in the high nest box density strategies. This suggests that growers could improve profits by simply adding more nest boxes with moderate number of tubes in each. Our approach can support grower decisions regarding integrated crop pollination and highlight the importance of a comprehensive ecological economic framework for assessing these decisions.
© The Author(s) 2017.
Koh I, Lonsdorf EV, Artz DR, Pitts-Singer TL, Ricketts TH. Ecology and economics of using native managed bees for almond pollination. Journal of economic entomology. 2018 Feb 9;111(1):16-25.