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A better bumblebee

December 14, 2012  By David Manly

Dec. 14, 2012 – Bees are one of the most vital aspects of crop production, because they serve a very important aspect – pollination. Without bees, many crops including fruits and vegetables would not be able to produce nearly as well and feed a growing population.

Biobest, which is involved in pollination and biological pest control for crops, is cultivating a native Western bumblebee for use in the outdoor pollination of almonds, strawberries, blueberries, cranberries and many more.

“We had to develop a species for the West because Eastern species cannot be used outdoors in the West,” says Richard Ward, the managing director of Biobest. “Bumblebees are excellent pollinators of these crops.”

Unlike honeybees, bumblebees work well in a wide variety of weather conditions, even those that are not optimal, he added. In addition, the need for an alternative to honeybees is dire because in some regions there is also a shortage of available pollinators potentially caused by colony collapse disorder.

Biobest is not genetically engineering a new type of bumblebee, but instead looking towards nature for innovation. “We are testing and selecting different existing indigenous bumblebee species of Western US and Canada,” said Ward. “The important selection criteria are: distribution range, possibility to mass produce and field performance.”

Once candidate species are selected, the native bumblebees will be evaluated based on crop pollination trials taking place as early as the spring of 2013. After each of the species is evaluated, a single species will be selected and available for use.

Currently, Biobest uses five different species of bumblebees: Bombus terrestris, Bombus impatiens, Bombus ignites, Bombus atratus and Bombus canariensis for use in a variety of fruit, vegetable and other crop markets.

Once completed, says Ward, the next step will be to commercialize the production of the species of choice and offer them for sale to growers in Western Canada and Western US.

For more information on this and other Biobest products, please visit their website at

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