An alkali bee forages for pollen and nectar from an alfalfa flower. ARS Photo by Jim Cane.
An alkali bee forages for pollen and nectar from an alfalfa flower.

Bee 'beds' get helping hand from science

Some alfalfa seed producers maintain open soil parcels — bee beds — to encourage alkali bees, a top alfalfa flower pollinator.

U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists are digging into the soil around alfalfa fields near Touchet, Wash., to unearth new clues to improve the lives of the crop's chief insect pollinator: the alkali bee.

Alkali bees are champion alfalfa flower pollinators, even outperforming the honeybee — so much so that some Touchet farmers maintain open soil parcels called "bee beds" to encourage female alkali bees to dig their nests and raise their young, ensuring generations of pollinat

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