1932

Abstract

Among the ground-nesting bees are several proven crop pollinators, but only the alkali bee () has been successfully managed. In <80 years, it has become the world's most intensely studied ground-nesting solitary bee. In many ways, the bee seems paradoxical. It nests during the torrid, parched midsummer amid arid valleys and basins of the western United States, yet it wants damp nesting soil. In these basins, extensive monocultures of an irrigated Eurasian crop plant, alfalfa (lucerne), subsidize millions of alkali bees. Elsewhere, its polylectic habits and long foraging range allow it to stray into neighboring crops contaminated with insecticides. Primary wild floral hosts are either non-native or poorly known. Kleptoparasitic bees plague most ground nesters, but not alkali bees, which do, however, host other well-studied parasitoids. Building effective nesting beds requires understanding the hydraulic conductivity of silty nesting soils and its important interplay with specific soil mineral salts. Surprisingly, some isolated populations endure inhospitably cold climates by nesting amid hot springs. Despite the peculiarities and challenges associated with its management, the alkali bee remains the second most valuable managed solitary bee for US agriculture and perhaps the world.

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2024-01-25
2024-06-19
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