LOGAN -- Large groups of small experts are hard at work preparing for next year's gardens.
Those experts: bumblebees.
"They are starting to make what will be next year's queens, and those queens will be the only ones to survive the winter," said Cory Stanley, coordinator of Utah State University's Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey program. "The rest will die off."
Gardeners would be wise to consider bumblebees as star pollinators, according to new USU research. Honeybees may get more attention, but bumblebees -- which are larger, rounder and fuzzier than honeybees, and have fewer stripes -- are more effective for use in inexpensive high-hoop greenhouses.
The reason: honeybees organize and try to leave. Bumblebees do not.
"Honeybees tend to fly to the top of the plastic-enclosed structures and try to escape," said Jamie Strange, USU research entomologist and adjunct assistant professor in USU's Biology Department.
"Bumblebees, on the other hand, seem perfectly content in the structures and are particularly efficient pollinators for the types of crops well-suited to greenhouses."
Honeybees communicate through use of dance language and pheromones, Stanley said.
"Someone may be using honeybees to pollinate one crop, but if a bee sees a crop she likes better, she will tell all the other bees," she said. "Bumblebees don't do that. If one finds something better, the rest still go about their business, and you don't get the mass recruitment away from the crop you are trying to pollinate."
Bumblebees also are better at pollinating tomatoes, a warm weather crop that growers often cover with high-hoop houses, which are greenhouses formed from clear plastic and PVC pipe and fittings.
"Bumblebees grab the tomato stems and buzz pollinate," Stanley said. Buzz pollination, which shakes blossoms violently, is more efficient because it frees more pollen to reach more flowers.
USU supports the use of high-hoop greenhouses, also known as tunnel green houses.
"These types of greenhouses are favored by both professional and amateur growers," says Jamie Strange, USDA-ARS research entomologist and adjunct assistant professor in USU's Biology Department. "They work well for tomatoes, peppers and berries -- high antioxidant foods favored by today's consumers."
High-tunnel green houses are passively heated and don't require electricity.
USU will teach a workshop on bees as pollinators from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Kaysville Education Center, USU Botanical Gardens, 920 S. 50 West. To register, visit http://usubotanicalcenter.org and click on classes and events.
That is also the website to register for USU's high-
tunnel greenhouse workshop, set for 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 30 at the USU Botanical Center.
In addition, plans for constructing a high-tunnel greenhouse can be downloaded at http://extension.usu.edu/htm/publications/publication=9737.
Bumblebees can be purchased online, and handle transport well.
"It's a niche market that's growing in popularity," Strange says. "Humans can manually pollinate hothouse plants, but bumblebees are much better at it."