Solitary Bees As Pollinators

  • Bettina MaccagnaniEmail author
  • Fabio Sgolastra


Besides the wind, insects are the main pollinating agents and many of them are hymenopterans. However, among the 20,000 species of bees (Superfamily Apoidea), only a very restricted group has been domesticated for commercial crop pollination, including social and solitary species. The honey bee Apis mellifera L. has been the first domesticated pollinator species, anyway, many cultivated crops benefit largely from the activity of other pollinators, especially when honey bees cannot provide a sufficient pollination service. This occurrence is particularly frequent in crops blooming in early spring or in crops with flowers not enough attractive to honey bees, i.e. because of low nectar and pollen production or for particular flower shapes.

In addition to these ecological aspects, which are the result of a long history of coevolution between insects and flowers, modern agriculture and the well-known difficulties that honey bees are suffering of, create new concern that a general decline in the native pollinator populations will have unavoidable consequences on crop production due to insufficient pollination service. The most striking contradiction of the “industrial” extensive monocultures is that on one side they put in forth the need of enormous number of pollinators to satisfy the vast number of flowers contemporarily ready to be pollinated; on the other side, they cancel from the agroecosystem uncultivated meadows, edges and forests, which serve as refuge and conservation areas. The immediate repercussion on pollinating insects is the lack of continuity in blooms: on large areas, flowers are extremely abundant during the short blooming period of the main crops and nearly almost absent in the remaining part of their reproductive season (what is called “green desert”). In addition, very often a dramatic reduction of adequate nesting sites and materials may strongly limit the reproductive success, while, up today, the knowledge about the acute and chronic effects of pesticides on native bees is still insufficient.


Solitary bees Pollination Osmia cornuta Ecology Conservation 



We wish to thank Alessandra Montanari who made the drawing in Fig. 1, and Antonio Marzocchi for the pictures 1B-13 and 16–17.


  1. Abrol DP (2011) Pollination biology: biodiversity conservation and agricultural production. Springer Science & Business Media, ISBN 978-94-007-1942-2Google Scholar
  2. Artz DR, Nault BA (2011) Performance of Apis mellifera, Bombus impatiens and Peponapis pruinosa (Hymenoptera: Apidae) as pollinators of pumpkin. J Econ Entomol 104(4):1153–1161PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barth FG (1985) Insects and flowers: the biology of a partnership. Allen & Unwin, ISBN 0045740291, 9780045740291Google Scholar
  4. Benedek P, Nyeki J (1996) Pollinating efficiency of honeybees on apple cultivars as affected by their flower characteristics. Hortic Sci 28:40–47Google Scholar
  5. Bosch J (1994) The nesting behaviour of the mason bee Osmia cornuta (Latr.) with special reference to its pollinating potential (Hymenoptera, Megachilidae). Apidologie 25:84–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bosch J (1995) Comparison of nesting materials for the orchard pollinator Osmia cornuta (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae). Entomologia Generalis 19:285–289CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bosch J, Blas M (1994) Effect of overwintering and incubation temperatures on adult emergence in Osmia cornuta Latr (Hymenoptera, Megachilidae). Apidologie 25(3):265–277. Scholar
  8. Bosch J, Kemp WP (2001) How to manage the blue orchard bee, USDA-SARE, sustainable agriculture network, handbook series, book 5, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  9. Bosch J, Kemp WP (2002) Developing and establishing bee species as crop pollinators: the example of Osmia spp. (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae) and fruit trees. Bull Entomol Res 92:3–16PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Buchmann S (1983) Buzz pollination in angiosperms. In: Jones CE, Little RJ (eds) Handbook of experimental pollination biology. Scientific and Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  11. Cane JH (1997) Ground nesting bees: the neglected pollinator resource for agriculture. Acta Hortic (437):309–324Google Scholar
  12. Cane JH (2008) A native ground-nesting bee (Nomia melanderi) sustainably managed to pollinate alfalfa across an intensively agricultural landscape. Apidologie 39(3):315–323CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cane JH, Tepedino VJ (2001) Causes and extent of declines among native North American invertebrate pollinators: detection, evidence, and consequences. Conserv Ecol 5(1): 1. [online] URL:
  14. Da-Yong J, Long-Shi L (2007) The activity of wild and orchard Osmia cornifrons. Chin Bull Entomol 44:275–276Google Scholar
  15. Felicioli A, Pinzauti M (2008) Pollination by Osmia Bees (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae) encyclopedia of entomology.
  16. Free JB (1993) Insect pollination of crops. Academic, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  17. Goodell K, Thomson JD (1998) Comparisons of pollen removal and deposition by honeybees and bumblebees visiting apple. Acta Hortic 437:103–107. Scholar
  18. Gruber B, Eckel K, Everaars J, Dormann CF (2011) On managing the red mason bee (Osmia bicornis) in apple orchards. Apidologie 42:564–576. Scholar
  19. Harder LD, Thomson JD (1989) Evolutionary options for maximizing pollen dispersal of animal-pollinated plants. Am Nat 133:323–344. Scholar
  20. Harder LD, Wilson WG (1998) Theoretical consequences of heterogeneous transport conditions for pollen dispersal by animals. Ecology 79:2789–2807.[2789:TCOHTC]2.0.CO;2CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Heroin-Delauney Y (1966) Etude des constructions d’Osmia cornuta (Hym. Apoidea) après injections de produits marqués. Comptes rendus des Séances de la Société de Biologie et de ses filiales. 160: 2027–2030Google Scholar
  22. Hoogendorn K, Steven C, Keller MA (2007) Foraging behaviour of a blue banded bee, Amegilla chlorocyanea in greenhouses: implications for use as tomato pollinators. Apidologie 38:86–92. Scholar
  23. James R, Pitts-Singer T (2008) Bee pollination of agricultural ecosystems (eds) Print ISBN -13: 9780195316957. Oxford Scholarship Online Sept.
  24. Javorek SK, Mackenzie KE, Vander Kloet SP (2002) Comparative pollination effectiveness among bees (Hymenoptera: Apoidea) on lowbush blueberry (Ericaceae: Vaccinium angustifolium). Ann Entomol Soc Am 95(3):345–351CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kendall DA (1973) Viability and compatibility of pollen on insects visiting apple blossom. J Appl Ecol 10:847–853CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kendall DA, Solomon ME (1973) Quantities of pollen on bodies of insects visiting apple blossom. J Appl Ecol 10:627–634CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kevan PG and Phillips TP (2001) The economic impacts of pollinator declines: an approach to assessing the consequences. Conserv Ecol 5(1): 8. [online] URL:
  28. Klein MA, Vaissière BE, James HCI, Cunningham SA, Kremen C, Scharntke T (2007) Importance of pollinators in changing landscapes for world crops. Proc R Soc B 274:303–313. Scholar
  29. Kremen C, Williams NM, Bugg RL, Fay JP, Thorp RW (2004) The area requirements of an ecosystem service: crop pollination by native bee communities in California. Ecol Lett 7:1109–1119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Krunic M, Pinzauti M, Felicioli A, Stanisavljevic LJ (1995) Further observations on Osmia cornuta Latr. and O. rufa L. as alternative fruit pollinators, domestication and utilization. Arch Biol Sci Belgrade 47:59–66Google Scholar
  31. Krunic M, Stanisavljevic L, Pinzauti M, Felicioli A (2005) The accompanying fauna of Osmia cornuta and Osmia rufa and effective measures of protection. Bull Insectol 58(2):141–152Google Scholar
  32. Ladurner E, Maccagnani B, Tesoriero D, Nepi M, Felicioli A (1999) Laboratory rearing of Osmia cornuta (Latreille) (Hymenoptera Megachilidae) on artificial diet. – Bollettino dell’ Istituto di entomologia “G. Grandi”. Università di Bologna 53:133–146Google Scholar
  33. Ladurner E, Santi F, Maccagnani B, Maini S (2002) Pollination of caged hybrid seed red rape, Brassica oleracea (Brassicaceae), with Osmia cornuta (Latr.) and Apis mellifera L. (Hymenoptera, Megachilidae and Apidae). Bull Insectol 55(1/2):9–11Google Scholar
  34. Lee S-B, Seo D-K, Choi K-H (2008) The visited insects on apple flowers, and the characteristics on pollinating activity of pollinators released for pollination of apple orchards. Korean J Apic 23(4):275–282Google Scholar
  35. Maccagnani B, Ladurner E, Santi F, Burgio G (2003a) Osmia cornuta (Hymenoptera Megachilidae) as a pollinator of pear (Pyrus communis): fruit- and seed- set. Apidologie 34:207–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Maccagnani B, Ladurner E, Tesoriero D, Sgolastra F, Burgio G (2003b) The use of Osmia cornuta (Latreille) (Hymenoptera Megachilidae) for pear pollination: a reason to adopt low impact farming system in a landscape management perspective. IOBC WPRS Bull 26(4):101–106Google Scholar
  37. Maccagnani B, Burgio G, Stanisavljeviḉ LŽ, Maini S (2007) Osmia cornuta management in pear orchards. Bull Insectol 60(1):77–82Google Scholar
  38. Maeta Y (1978) Comparative studies on the biology of the bees of the genus Osmia of Japan, with special reference to their managements for pollinations of crops (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae). Bull Tohoku Nat Agric Exp Stn 57:1–221Google Scholar
  39. Márquez J, Bosch J, Vicens N (1994) Pollens collected by wild and managed populations of the potential orchard pollinator Osmia cornuta (Latr.) (Hym., Megachilidae). J Appl Entomol 117(1–5):353–359. Scholar
  40. McGregor SE (1976) Insect pollination of cultivated crop plants. Agricultural handbook No. 496. USDA, Agricultural Research Service, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  41. McKinney MI, Yong-Lak Park (2012) Nesting activity and behavior of Osmia cornifrons (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae) elucidated using videography. Psyche ID 814097, 1–7
  42. Menzel R, Steinmann E, De Souza J, Backhaus W (1988) Spectral sensitivity of photoreceptors and colour vision in the solitaty bee, Osmia rufa. J Exp Biol 136:35–52Google Scholar
  43. Michener CD (2000) The Bees of the World. Baltimore and London. The John Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-6133-0Google Scholar
  44. Monzon VH, Bosch J, Retana J (2004) Foraging behaviour and pollinating effectiveness of Osmia cornuta (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae) and Apis mellifera (Hymenoptera: Apidae) on ‘Comice’ pear. Apidologie 35:575–585CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Nepi M, Cresti L, Maccagnani B, Ladurner E, Pacini E (2005) From the anther to the proctodeum: pear (Pyrus communis) pollen digestion in Osmia cornuta larvae. J Insect Physiol 51(7):749–757. Scholar
  46. Pereboom JM (2000) The composition of larval food and the significance of exocrine secretions in the bumblebee Bombus terrestris. Insect Soc 47:11–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Peters DS (1977) Systematik und Zoogeographie der west-paläarktischen Arten von Osmia sstr, Monosmia und Orientosmia. Senckenberg Biol 58:287–346Google Scholar
  48. Pinzauti M (2001) Investigation on the germinating potential of pollen transported by some bees. IX Convegno Nazionale Associazione Nazionale Studio Artropodi Sociali e Presociali. Parma −6–8 giugno 2001Google Scholar
  49. Pinzauti M, Lazzarini D, Felicioli A, Richards KW (1997) Preliminary investigations of Osmia cornuta Latr. (Hymenoptera, Megachilidae) as a potential pollinator for blackberry (Rubus fruticosus L.) under confined enviroment. Proceedings of the 7th International Symposium on Pollination, Lethbridge, Alberta, June 23–28 1996, pp. 329–333Google Scholar
  50. Pitts-Singer TL, Cane JH (2011) The alfalfa leafcutting bee, Megachile rotundata: the world’s most intensively managed solitary bee. Annu Rev Entomol 56:221–237. Scholar
  51. Potts SG, Biesmeijer JC, Kremen C, Neumann P, Schweiger O, Kunin WE (2010) Global pollinator declines: trends, impacts and drivers. Trends Ecol Evol 25(6):345–353PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Ribeiro MF, Velthuis HHW, Duchateau MJ, van der Twee I (1999) Feeding frequency and caste differentiation in Bombus terrestris larvae. Insect Soc 46(4):306–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Roulston TH, Cane JH (2000) Pollen nutritional content and digestibility for animals. Plant Syst Evol 222(1–4):189–209Google Scholar
  54. Sampson BJ, Cane JH (2000) Pollination efficiencies of three bee (Hymenoptera: Apoidea) species visiting rabbiteye blueberry. J Econ Entomol 93(6):1726–1731PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sgolastra F, Bosch J, Molowny-Horas R, Maini S, Kemp WP (2010) Effect of temperature regime on diapause intensity in an adult-wintering Hymenopteran with obligate diapauses. J Insect Physiol 56(2):185–194. Scholar
  56. Sgolastra F, Kemp WP, Buckner JS, Pitts-Singer TL, Maini S, Bosch J (2011) The long summer: pre-wintering temperatures affect metabolic expenditure and winter survival in a solitary bee. J Insect Physiol 57(12):1651–1659PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sgolastra F, Kemp WP, Maini S, Bosch J (2012) Duration of prepupal summer dormancy regulates synchronization of adult diapause with winter temperatures in bees of the genus Osmia. J Insect Physiol 58:924–933PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Shuler RE, Roulston TH, Farris GE (2005) Farming practices influence wild pollinator populations on squash and pumpkin. J Econ Entomol 98(3):790–795PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Tasei JN (1973) Le comportement de nidification chez Osmia (Osmia) cornuta Latr. et Osmia (Osmia) rufa L. (Hymenoptera Megachilidae). Apidologie 4(3):195–225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Tepedino VJ (1981) The pollination efficiency of the squash bee (Peponapis pruinosa) and the honeybee (Apis mellifera) on summer squash (Cucurbita pepo). J Kansas Entomol Soc 54:359–377Google Scholar
  61. Thomson JD (2001) How do visitation patterns vary among pollinators in relation to floral display and floral design in a generalist pollination system? Oecologia 126:386–394. Scholar
  62. Thomson BA, Thomson JD (1999) BeeVisit. In: Jungck J (ed) Bioquest library. Academic, San Diego, pp 64–65Google Scholar
  63. Torchio PF, Asensio E (1985) The introduction of the European bee, Osmia cornuta Latr., into the U.S. as a potential pollinator of orchard crops, and a comparison of its manageability with Osmia lignaria propinqua Cresson (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae). J Kansas Entomol Soc 58(1):42–52Google Scholar
  64. Vicens N, Bosch J (2000) Pollinating efficacy of Osmia cornuta and Apis mellifera (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae, Apidae) on ‘Red Delicious’ apple. Environ Entomol 29:235–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Wasielewski O, Wojciechowicz T, Giejdasz K, Krishnan N (2013) Overwintering strategies in the red mason solitary bee—physiological correlates of midgut metabolic activity and turnover of nutrient reserves in females of Osmia bicornis. Apidologie 44:642–656. Scholar
  66. Willians I (2002) Insect pollination and crop production: a European perspective. In: Kevan P, Imperatriz Fonseca VL (eds) Pollinating bees: the conservation link between agriculture and nature. Ministry of Environment, Brasília, pp 59–65Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro Agricoltura Ambiente “Giorgio Nicoli”CrevalcoreItaly
  2. 2.Università di bolognaBolognaItaly

Personalised recommendations