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Bees that rob flowers

Posted by blueberrytalk on April 4, 2008

When bees cannot reach to the base of a flower to collect nectar with their tongue they will cut through at the base of the flower to “rob” nectar. A bee doing this is not pollinating the flower. Here is a picture of a bumblebee taking nectar from the base of a long tubular flower.  Source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bumblebee

bumblebee-robbing.jpg

For a blueberry grower the hardest variety to pollinate is Bluecrop. Bluecrop is not a natural preference for bees and so it takes more hives per acre to achieve the same pollination as other varieties. Also, Bluecrop has a long tubular flower that tempts bees to chew through at the base and “rob” the nectar. Italian bees, popular with beekeepers, have a short tongue and are inclined to chew through at the flower base to reach the nectar. Carniolan bees have a longer tongue so they are not a problem. This is where Mason bees can be a help to get the pollination done.

carniolan-bee.jpg       italian-bee.jpg    

  Carniolan bee            Italian bee           pollinating

Mason bees emerge in the Spring several weeks before the Bluecrop are ready for pollination.  In fact, Mason bees pollinate Bluecrop close to the end of their life cycle. The next post will look at how the Mason bees are kept alive while waiting for the Bluecrop flowers to bloom.

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