Blueberrytalk's Weblog

Everything connected to growing blueberries

Archive for May, 2008

Alsike clover and rhododendrons

Posted by blueberrytalk on May 31, 2008

The Duke bluberries are at about 80% bloom. The Bluecrop are at peak bloom and the Elliots are at about 40% bloom. This is not the greatest time for the clover to bloom. The good thing about clover is that it will produce flowers right through to the fall.

Several hundred large late blooming rhododendrons have joined the clover in distracting bees away from the blueberries. The good thing about the rhododendrons is that they can be sold!

    Alsike clover with sheep sorrel in the backgound       

Bumblebees are more attracted to rhododendrons than honeybees. The worker bumblebees have started to emerge from the nest and are more noticeable in the field with each passing day.

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Sheep Sorrel and Pollen

Posted by blueberrytalk on May 31, 2008

Sheep Sorrel is a great source of pollen. If you kick the plant a cloud of pollen fills the air. Commonly called sour  grass, people love to chew the leaves. The bees love this plant because they can very quickly load up with pollen. It is not uncommon to see 5 or 6 bees in one clump of sheep sorrel and they all seem to be loaded with pollen.

        .sheep sorrel in bloom          edible sour grass leaves (sheep sorrel)

There are two negatives to sheep sorrel. One is that it is the most obnoxious weed on the farm. It’s favorite place to grow is in the sawdust mulch around the blueberries, it’s roots spread quickly to start new plants and it is hard to eradicate. The second negative is that it’s blossom time coincides with the blueberry bloom.

Picture source:


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Comfrey and Bumblebees

Posted by blueberrytalk on May 23, 2008

The Comfrey is in bloom and it is the height of the blueberry blossom. Honey bees have lots to feed on and the bumblebee population is well below it’s peak so the Comfrey isn’t attracting many visitors. The Comfrey continues to bloom throughout the summer so it will become important later as a way of keeping bumblebees in the area. Bumblebees like Comfrey in the same way that honeybees like apple blossoms.


Click on pictures of Comfrey to enlarge.

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Posted by blueberrytalk on May 17, 2008

Apple blossoms are preferred by bees over blueberry blossoms. In Pitt Meadows B.C. there are many wild apple trees in wooded or unkept areas. This is quite a challenge to the blueberry grower who wants to get his blueberries pollinated but finds his bees spending all their time in the apple blossoms.

The wild apple trees produce a fruit that is elongated but hardly more than a centimeter in length. Birds do the Johnney Appleseed thing so that wild apples are planted far and wide. In the two pictures below bees are collecting pollen and nector from wild apples. (click on photo to enlarge).


Over thirty years ago known apple varieties were grafted onto the wild apple stock. The wild apple root system was well adapted to the land so this was a winning combination. The next two pictures show a Transparent apple with it’s smooth bark grafted onto wild apple stock. Notice the rough bark of the wild apple and the suckers trying to grow from the wild apple trunk. These, of course, would produce wild apples.


The third picture clearly shows the graft of a wonderful cooking apple onto wild apple stock. There is a sucker growing up from the roots with the typical sharp spikes of the wild apple.

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Not about birds but about Mason bees

Posted by blueberrytalk on May 6, 2008

Mason bees lay fertilized eggs in the back compartments of their nest to produce females and a few unfertilized eggs near the entrance to produce males. In the spring the males exit first so they are ready to mate with the females when they emerge.

Mason bees love to gather nectar and pollen from the rhododendrons that have small leaves and flowers. In the pictures below Mason bees are mating in a rhododendron that is about 300 feet away from the nesting area. Notice the smaller size of the male and his long antenae. You can also see there is a problem with pollen mites. Click on picture to enlarge.


                        Mason bees mating 

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Dandelions and blueberry blossoms

Posted by blueberrytalk on May 5, 2008

It is a commonly held view that dandelions will distract bees from pollinating blueberry blossoms. These pictures show that the dandelions have peaked just as the first blueberry blossoms are opening. Dandelions will blossom again a couple of times later in the season.


Rhododendrons are popular with all bees. Early rhododendrons start in March and later ones can go right to June. The broadleaf maple is a good food source for the bees but the flowers are finished right now. However, other maples are in blossom. (May 4) Pictures below are of bees in rhododendron and Japenese maple.


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Mason bees and pollen mites

Posted by blueberrytalk on May 5, 2008

In the first picture there is a Mason bee on a dandelion. You can see the mites clinging to the bee. This is about 60-70 feet from the nest. Some of the literature suggests that carrying the load of mites impedes the flight of the mason bee. It is hard to determine from the literature the full effect of pollen mites on Mason bees. The mites do not effect the bees directly but eat the pollen intended for this years larvae.

In the next picture we are breaking open a mason bee nest to look for infesatations of pollen mites. There were several females still in the nest a few weeks after the first emergance of bees.

In the last two pictures you can see an infestation of mites. When the Mason bees emerge the mites latch on as the bees travel through this mess. Click on the pictures to enlarge.


Now that we have seen that Mason bees prefer bamboo nest tubes over holes in blocks and that the bamboo nests are easy to open we will open the nests at the end of the season and collect and clean the cacoons. Next year we will release the cacoons to a fresh set of bamboo nests.

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