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Alfalfa Leafcutter Bees

 
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These bees are one of the only species that does a good job pollinating alfalfa, and is vital to alfalfa seed production. If you plan on saving seeds, it looks like these little guys are the way to go. But I've been doing lots of reading about raising these bees, and it's very energy and labor intensive using current methods. They keep the bee pupae in controlled temperatures all through the winter and spring. Are there any good Permaculture-friendly ways to raise these bees, and allow them to overwinter out in the wild successfully?
 
Posts: 36
Location: England, Midlands.
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Some people get a tad obsessive about solitary bees. I haven't had any experience with the bee you are talking about but I would have thought they should be ok left to there own devices over winter. You won't get the kind of population growth that comes with energy intensive methods and you will have more problems with parasites but they should do ok by themselves. Just get some blocks of wood and drill a bunch of holes in it from 5mm to 12mm or collect a lode of hollow plant stems or bamboo, cut them so one end is open and the other closed and put them somewhere dry and sunny.

I've made some solitary bee homes, not for alfalfa but just to compensate for the drop in population of honey bees and I have found it pretty easy to get them established. Here's a video I made about it a couple of years ago, there are lodes of others like it on youtube too.
 
Posts: 30
Location: Woodinville, WA
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It depends on what you're trying to do with these bees. The bees naturally live in the wild, so having a bunch of holes is perfectly fine to let them do their thing.

If you are raising cattle, do you let your cows roam in the fields with no fencing, no caring if they're sick, or provide no support? The same occurs with bees IF you're trying to manage them for a function.

To increase their numbers, a bit of management is important. Pest control is important. You can do this through harvesting in January.

If you're raising the bee where it naturally lives, then keep it outside. If you're managing it where it doesn't exist naturally, then yes, you'll want to control the environment for best development. If you don't want to do this, find another bee that is native to your area and rear that.

You'll find a bit of information on how best to raise these on www.crownbees.com (I'm the site owner)
 
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