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Archive for the ‘pollination’ Category

Improving Blueberry fruit set

Posted by blueberrytalk on July 30, 2016

Honeybees are easily enticed to floral sources even miles away. Once the blackberry blossoms open it’s hard to keep the honeybees at home in your blueberry field.

Mason bees like to forage within a few hundred feet of their nests. Placing Mason bee nests close to “hard to pollinate” blueberry varieties is a way to combat poor fruit set.

The picture below  shows poor fruit set in a Draper blueberry plant. Start your own pollination with Mason bees!

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Draper fruit

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Focus for 2012

Posted by blueberrytalk on January 1, 2012

As we approach this year’s blueberry pollination  there are two questions that are foremost in our minds.

  1. Is there a symbiotic relationship between the honeybee and the Mason bee with the honeybee going for nectar and the Mason bee seeking pollen. The net result is more bee visits per flower resulting in better pollination.
  2. Can extra forage be used to attract virgin bumblebee queens and drones to our farm after they leave their nest in the fall. This should result in a bigger bumblebee population next spring.

See these earlier blog entries:

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No bees no berries

Posted by blueberrytalk on August 4, 2011

Bees were denied access to the blossoms on this blueberry branch. Berries did not develop beyond what is seen in this picture!

blueberry branch

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When the buzzing stops

Posted by blueberrytalk on May 6, 2010

As I go up and down the blueberry rows applying fertilizer, I make a mental note of the number of times I get “buzzed” by queen bumblebees. Over the last week the amount of buzzing has decreased. The means that the queens are retreating to their nests to spend the rest of their lives laying and incubating bumblebee eggs. The queen only does this when she has raised up some worker bumblebees to do the foraging for the colony. Worker bumblebees don’t “buzz” like the queens they just focus on their foraging. Now the number of bumblebees in the field will grow every day as the bumblebee colony rapidly expands.

Later blooming varieties like Elliot and Draper have just started to blossom so these varieties can really benefit from an exploding population of bumblebees.

worker bumblebee

Posted in Bumblebees, pollination | 2 Comments »

Keeping the bees busy

Posted by blueberrytalk on June 1, 2009

Except for the Elliott variety, blueberry pollination is virtually over. One foraging source that has just blossomed is the Black Locust. (Robinia pseudo-acacia) Black Locust is known for the fine quality of honey it produces. In the evening, the beautiful fragrance of the blossoms fills the air.

Black locust blossoms

Black locust blossoms

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Bluecrop pollination

Posted by blueberrytalk on September 5, 2008

The tiny unripe berries on the Bluecrop blueberry bush is a result of  poor pollination. It would be easy to blame the weather but the fact is bees prefer any other blossom to Bluecrop blossoms. This is a persistent problem for Bluecrop. What is the solution? Our plan is to saturate the area with Mason bees. Mason bees forage close to their nests so a lot of Mason bee nests close to the Bluecrop is our plan for next year. We will check back a year from now.

late Bluecrop

late Bluecrop

unripe Bluecrop

unripe Bluecrop

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Little bee with a big heart

Posted by blueberrytalk on June 16, 2008

When this little wild bee was found she was right inside a blueberry blossom. Notice the white blueberry pollen on her back leg. Campare this bee with a honeybee alongside a blueberry blossom.

Tiny wild bee    Click on image to enlarge.   honeybee and blueberry blossom

The wild bee was caught in a jar and put in the fridge for a few moments to slow her down. She slowed down enough to pose for this picture. As soon as the picture was taken the bee began to stir and then flew off to continue her work.

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Honeybees AWOL

Posted by blueberrytalk on June 15, 2008

Pollination is complete for most blueberries. The duke variety has fruit that is well formed. The Dukes pollinate well with most berries maturing to a good size. Click on pictures to enlarge.

               Duke blueberries.

Elliot blueberries are still showing a lot of blossom but the only pollinator on the Elliots are worker bumblebees.

            worker bumblebee Elliot blueberry  Worker bumblebee on Elliot flower.

Meanwhile the honeybees, instead of working the blueberries, are visiting  the clover and the blackberry blossoms.

             Italian bee visiting blackberry blossoms.

By now there are lots of bumblebee workers to pollinate the Elliot blueberries. If there are 100 bumblebee queens in April and if each queen can produce 50 workers then around this time in the season there could be 5000 workers to pick up the slack when the honeybees are enticed elsewhere.

Posted in Bumblebees, pollination | 2 Comments »


Posted by blueberrytalk on April 17, 2008

It takes some searching to find Mason bees at work. Honey bees are more numerous and larger so they are easy to see. But you don’t have to look for the Queen bumblebee. She finds you. And then she circles around you with a loud buzzing sound.

There will be no more Mason bees than the number at the beginning of the season. Any increase will show up next year. The honeybee colony can be expected to grow as pollination proceeds so the last berry blossoms will have higher bee intensity. The queen bumblebees that are around when the first blueberry blossums open will soon disappear. In their place will be many more worker bumblebees. These workers are partialy developed females that help the colony develop by supplying food for the larvae. The queen remains in the nest laying eggs and keeping them warm. The workers are smaller than the queen and go about their work without bothering to “buzz” humans. The number of workers approaching the end of the blueberry harvest can be quite amazing. In the field their numbers can rival the number of honeybees. On top of that, bumblebees are the number one pollinator with their ability to deposit many more grains of pollen.

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