Watts Solitary Bees began over 50 years ago in rural eastern Oregon as a side job for school teacher Roger Watts. He started putting up bee boards on the sides of barns and selling them full of leafcutter bees to alfalfa farmers. After putting his name around local feed stores, he began making $5 a board and when demand started to grow for these small efficient pollinators, his earnings soon surpassed what he was making as a teacher.
In the 1970s he was faced with the challenge of dealing with an infestation of chalkbrood fungus. The industry came to halt and he needed to find a solution. He changed the process of growing bees in boards, beginning to remove the years brood from the blocks, cleaning them and decreasing infection rates to almost zero. With this new process in place, business began to expand.
His kids and other family members began to help with the bees. He kept his son Jim busy when he was in high school. The whole family began to work together to grow the business, loading bee boards, cleaning trays, and controlling parasites. He credits the success of the business to hard work and the luck of being able to work with the best seed growers in the business.
Roger Watts is still involved with Watts Solitary Bees. He's very thankful for the long term relationships he has established in the pollination and seed growing industries. He hopes to see education and research continue about how to better protect our bees in light of our increasing demands for food production.
Jim has been raising solitary bees almost his entire life. Starting at a young age Jim began working in the family business raising leafcutter bees. Jim graduated with a bachelor of science in mathematics from Oregon State University. He has since spent the last 30 years working and developing his skill and knowledge in the areas of propagating and pollinating using leafcutter and mason bees. Jim has become one of the most knowledgeable individuals in agriculture in the practical use of solitary bees in pollination.
Craig graduated from Oregon State University. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon and runs our propagation operation for mason bees. Craig joined Watts Solitary Bees in 2008 and has developed his expertise in propagating mason bees for commercial orchards. Craig also is in charge of our manufacturing of products for mason bee nesting in orchards.