Bumblebees are an essential component of UK blueberry production. By introducing the correct hive types at the right time, pollination rates can be optimised resulting in higher yields and ultimately profits.
Early season pollinators
“By early March some crops on the South Coast of England started flowering, while crops North of the border in Scotland are still some way off,” says Tim Crittenden, Biobest UK’s Technical Sales Manager. “Early in the season, natural pollinators are few and far between. Coupled with the fact most UK blueberries are grown in enclosed polythene tunnels, means growers must introduce bumblebees to pollinate crops.”
Narrow pollination window
Blueberry crops have a narrow pollination window. While individual flowers must be pollinated within 4-5 days of opening, each bush has a pollination window of just 4-6 weeks.
Tim recommends growers monitor their crops carefully and introduce Biobest Standard Hives when 5% of flowers have opened.
“With a life span of 6-8 weeks, Standard Hives cover the entire pollination window,” he explains. “Then, when 20% of flowers have opened, we recommend also introducing Biobest’s Turbo Hives.
“More mature, each Turbo Hive contains over 200 workers and – as the name suggests – immediately gets to work boosting pollination rates during the peak pollination period. Turbo Hives have a slightly shorter lifespan of 4-6 weeks.
“If the bumblebees start biting the petals, that is a good indication the numbers are just above the optimum threshold.”
Dual hive strategy
“Implementing this dual hive strategy correctly pays dividends,” says Tim. “Good pollination leads to larger fruit with a higher seed count.
“The strategy relies on introducing the right number of hives at the correct time. Unique to each situation, it depends on a range of factors including geographical location, crop area, type of production system and age of the blueberry bushes. Biobest advisors are on hand to advise growers.”