Blueberrytalk's Weblog

Everything connected to growing blueberries

Storing Mason bee cocoons

Posted by blueberrytalk on March 16, 2018


A moist rag is used to raise the humidity above the normal fridge humidity. The reading on the humidity meter is too high so this rag should be replaced with a rag that is only partly moistened. The target humidity is 75%. The seal on the large container is good enough to maintain the same atmosphere for a length of time.


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Pollen from red cedars

Posted by blueberrytalk on March 11, 2018

Apis mellifera procuring pollen from thuja plicata.
After a long winter holed up in their hive, it’s nice to see the bees get out on a sunny day and gather food for their brood. I can’t imagine their emotional response, but it makes me happy.

cedar pollen

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Hardy Hummingbirds

Posted by blueberrytalk on February 24, 2018

This is the second winter we have enjoyed the company of several different hummingbirds.

IMG_6606 (2)

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The foraging habits of honeybees

Posted by blueberrytalk on December 3, 2017

When we heard that Black Locust honey was highly prized we planted Black Locust trees. The trees grew very tall and sent out suckers everywhere! I can’t recall over the years seeing honeybees foraging on Black Locust blossoms. A few bumblebees stopped by. Somewhere in the eastern US or Europe where there is a Black Locust forest and there are no other foraging choices honeybees will make Black Locust honey.

A frequent winner of honey tasting contests is sourwood honey. We planted some sourwood trees with high expectations. Over the years they have proved very popular with bumblebees. Honeybee visits are rare. Oh well, it’s there if they want it!

We happened upon the Heptacodium tree (or shrub). It blossoms for an entire month at the end of the season. It is loved by honeybees and bumblebees for both nectar and pollen. We have no idea as to what kind of honey is produced.

Honeybees will visit blueberry blossoms if it is their only choice! Once the blackberry blossoms open the honeybees will choose blackberry blossoms. I asked an old time beekeeper what the honeybees will do given a choice between blueberry blossoms and blackberry blossoms. He just laughed and said: ”blackberry!”  Late flowering blueberry varieties are hard to pollinate once the blackberry blossoms open. This is where Mason bees and worker bumblebees can be a big help!

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Late flowering trees

Posted by blueberrytalk on September 29, 2017

Heptacodium {seven sons) provides nectar and pollen all through September. It is very popular with all the bees.heptacodium

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Early Elliott bloom

Posted by blueberrytalk on May 19, 2017

Elliott, a late variety, is blooming alongside the early varieties. The early varieties are blooming almost a month later than usual.


bee in elliott

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Pussywillow pollen

Posted by blueberrytalk on March 23, 2017


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Posted by blueberrytalk on January 4, 2017

In 2016 the flower buds on the Rhododendrons exceeded anything we had ever seen!

We used our camera to record this exceptional year.

Then we added music by Suzy Haynes.




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Keeping cocoons cool

Posted by blueberrytalk on November 19, 2016

This fridge is used during the summer for cooling blueberries. Fridges dehumidify the air to a level that is not good for cocoons. Using a 4 litre milk container with ice from the freezer avoids this problem. At the time of the picture the fridge temperature was 4C while the outside temperature was 8C. The fridge is also protection from rodents.


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Improving Bluecrop production

Posted by blueberrytalk on November 3, 2016

For many years Bluecrop held the distinction of being the variety of choice for blueberry growers. Then came Duke! Duke was as easy to pollinate as Bluecrop was difficult to pollinate. Bluecrop invariably left 20-30% of the fruit as tiny undeveloped green berries. Duke berries tend to ripen in fewer pickings making it much easier for pickers to achieve  higher production. This says nothing about the overall production of the field.

We are attempting to meet all of the challenges posed by Dukes by using Mason bees to pollinate in the Bluecrop. Mason bees are trapped by their unwillingness to fly long distances so they can be forced to pollinate Bluecrop when they are placed next to Bluecrop. The first question is :”How many Mason bee cocoons does it take to pollinate an acre of Bluecrop?” We are close to an answer to this and probably after the 2017 season we will have a pretty good idea. Last year we used about 1500 cocoons per acre. Overall production is harder to pin down but we are collecting data in this area. We will have something to say about picker satisfaction that comes from compressed ripening later in this blog entry.

Let’s look at the challenge posed by Duke. This is what the second picking looks like to a picker!


The greater the density and size of berries the greater the productivity in picking.

Thanh is from Vietnam. He and his wife Lan have picked at our farm for about 20 years. Thanh knows the difference between a bush  he would like to pick from a bush he wouldn’t like to pick. His English is excellent and he doesn’t hesitate to share his thoughts. He has been with us through all the old “hard to pick” varieties that we no longer grow.

In 2015 we hand picked the Bluecrop in 3 pickings  In 2016 we did one hand pick and then finished the field with a machine pick. A couple of times before we machine harvested Thanh expressed his disappointment that he wouldn’t get a chance to pick the 2nd pick of Bluecrop. One anecdote can’t convince but we would like to pursue the idea  that Bluecrop , pollinated by Mason bees, can lead to a crop that produces higher picker satisfaction by the way the berries are presented on the bush.


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