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Managing Alternative Pollinators
A Handbook for Beekeepers, Growers and Conservationists


SARE Handbook 11

This handbook is a first-of-its-kind, step-by-step, full-color guide for rearing and managing bumble bees, mason bees, leafcutter bees, and other alternatives to honey bee pollinators.  

For Beekeepers: Detailed information on each alternative pollinator's biology and susceptibility to disease, pests and chemicals, as well as step-by-step instructions on how to rear and manage alternative pollinators.

For Growers: Guidance for understanding the business of pollination, matching pollinators to crops, and deciding how best to pollinate for successful agricultural production and pollinator protection.

For Conservationists: Easy-to-understand accounts of the honey bee's plight, the business of pollination, and what can be done to protect pollinators and our food systems.

The book features 130+ color photos, 10 chapters, 7 appendices, nest construction details, parasite and disease management guidelines and a sample contract. Includes a bibliography and list of additional resources.

This book was produced with support from the US Department of Agriculture's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. For more information about SARE, visit Or, to download a description of SARE, click here.


For ordering and price information, click here.  


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Table of contents | List of tables | Authors | Expected outcomes | Detailed Outline  | Sample pages |


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. The Business of Pollination
Chapter 2. The Status of the European Honey Bee in the U.S.
Chapter 3. A Brief Natural History of Bees
Chapter 4. Pollination Botany
Chapter 5. Bumble Bees
Chapter 6. Mason Bees
Chapter 7. The Alfalfa Leafcutter Bee
Chapter 8. Other Managed Pollinators
Chapter 9. The Search for New Managed Pollinators
Chapter 10. Habitat Conservation for Native Pollinators

Appendix A. Managing Parasites and Disease in Solitary Bee Operations
Appendix B. X-Ray Procedures for Cavity Nesting Bees
Appendix C. Plants for Bee Ranching
Appendix D. Reducing Bee Poisoning from Pesticides
Appendix E. Hybrid Nest Blocks for Cavity Nesting Bees
Appendix F. Nest Material Comparison for Leafcutter and Mason Bees
Appendix G. IPM for Beekeepers
Appendix H. Additional Resources



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Tables Titles

Pollination Costs for Various Bee Species

Managed Bees of Major Commercial Crops

Pollinator Syndromes

Bumble Bee Pests and Parasites

Mason Bee Management Timeline for Northern States

Leafcutter Management Timeline for Alfalfa Pollination in the Northern States.

Identifying Cavity-Nestting Bees by Nest Construction 

Some Native Perrennials for Attracting Wild Pollinators

Plants that are Suitable for Large-Scale Bee Ranching

Agricultural Chemicals Highly Toxic to Bees

Agricultural Chemicals Moderately Toxic to Bees

Agricultural Chemicals with Low Toxicity to Bees

Nest Material Comparison for Leafcutter and Mason Bees


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Eric Mader, Pollinator Outreach Coordinator, The Xerces Society Pollinator Conservation Program

Marla Spivak, Professor of Entomology, University of Minnesota

Elaine Evans, Author, Befriending Bumble Bees

With a forward by Mace Vaughan, Conservation Director, The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation


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Expected Outcomes

Knowledge of how to rear alternative pollinators, including leafcutter bees, mason bees and bumble bees for pollination

Appreciation of the importance of rearing only local pollinators to avoid movement of species outside their native ranges

Understand the critical use of sanitary practices to discourage the development and spread of diseases and parasites.

Ability to directly improve the quality of our food supply and aesthetics of our landscapes through pollination of fruits, nuts, vegetables and flowers

Positively impact biodiversity and ecological services in our environment

Understand the broad ecological issues affecting both managed and wild pollinators, and how to implement conservation practices to support them. 

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