Do Blueberries Need a Pollinator?

Blueberries are a type of fruit that is pollinated by bees. To ensure the production of quality blueberry crops, beekeepers need to maintain a healthy colony. This includes providing them with enough food, water, and shelter and regulating their temperature and humidity levels.

Additionally, bees need flowers to gather nectar from to produce honeycombs. Without these floral sources, the honeybees will eventually become unable to pollinate Blueberries or other plants! So while it might seem like Blueberries require no help from nature when they’re growing on trees or bushes, in reality, they still depend on humans (or bees) for their continued production!

Essential Pollinators of Blueberries

The more pollen is transferred, the greater the likelihood that the stigma will contain sufficient pollen grains to fertilize the ovules. Due to too many genetic and environmental variables, it may not be feasible to aim for a 75-100 percent fruit set. Pollination rates between 40 and 60 percent are regarded as excellent. If the rate falls below 30%, the pollinating force is insufficient. Pollen is too heavy and sticky to be transferred by wind because pollen is too sticky. Unless we can find a way to mechanically transfer pollen between clones, we are left with insects.

Here are the pollinators of bees:

Bumble Bees

Bombus spp.

Bumblebees are among the most interesting and beneficial insects on Earth. They play an important role in pollination, but they also provide us with food, clothing, and other products that we use every day.

Bumblebees belong to the bee family Apidae and are one of six species of honey bees. They are native to North America and Europe but have expanded their range globally due to human activity such as agriculture and urban development.

Despite their small size (most bumblebees measure about 1 millimeter), these creatures are mighty workers. They can fly thanks to their short wingspan rapidly, forage for flowers by spinning around quickly like a motorboat propeller, extract nectar from both wildflowers and commercial crops using long proboscis tubes, and build nests out of various materials including mud, wax cells filled with pollen or eggs (queen bumblebees lay up to 60,000 eggs per nest!), and defend their colony against intruders by stinging them repeatedly!

Solitary Bees

Megachile Pluto

Solitary bees are often considered to be the pioneers of honey production. These bees live in solitary colonies and extract nectar from flowers, which is the primary source of their food. While they can produce a fair amount of honey, their main contribution to the bee community is pollination.

Solitary bees play an important role in seed dispersal by transferring pollen to flowers. This ensures that different plants will cross-pollinate and create offspring resistant to pests and diseases. Additionally, it gives rise to new varieties of flowers, fruits, and vegetables!

While there aren’t many species of solitary bees left on Earth (the rusty patched bumblebee may be one), they are crucial for our environment and deserve our protection. So if you’re interested in learning more about these amazing creatures, visit a local nature conservancy or participate in a citizen science project!

Honey Bees

Apis mellifera

These bees pollinate wild blueberries well. According to recent research by de Oliveira (1994), large tracts of blueberry land near Lac St. Jean, Quebec, have direct yield-bee density relationships. The higher the bees’ concentration, the higher the yield. Low bee numbers reduced yield. Since wild blueberry nectar is scarce, bees thrive in areas with few alternative food sources. Strong hives produce the best results. Windbreaks can help honeybees by improving the micro-climate. There is a minimum stocking rate of 2.5 hives per hectare (1 hive per acre).

For this reason, honey bees are the most common bee in North Carolina’s commercial blueberry fields, where one to four hives are placed per acre. The pollination efficiency of a single honey bee visit to a blueberry flower can be low. Still, high stocking rates can compensate for the low pollination efficacy of a single visit. Honey bees may also use carpenter bee slits to obtain nectar from blueberry flowers, known as “legitimate” nectar and pollen collecting. Robbery and poaching are two types of foraging that do not contribute as much pollen to flowers, but they do result in some quantifiable pollination. Based on field observations, foraging honey bees in North Carolina blueberry fields may visit flowers more quickly than robber bees. The honey bees may also be able to visit more flowers when robbing because of this change.

Southeastern Blueberry Bees

Hapropoda laboriosa

The native southeastern blueberry bees are a common pollinator in blueberry fields, as their name implies. Male southeastern blueberry bees have a yellow “face” that distinguishes them from worker bumblebees on the wing. Bristles may appear on some bumblebees, but male southeastern blueberry bees have a yellow patch on their face that is not covered in bristles. It is possible to track the movements of Southeastern blueberry bees by listening to their buzzing as they pollinate the flowers in a field. Foraging on blueberries and other plants that bloom early in the spring, such as Carolina jessamine, oaks, and redbuds appears to be adapted to Southeastern blueberry bees. It was found that the single visit of a southeastern blueberry bee resulted in less seed development than the single visits of smaller native bees, such as bumblebees. While southeastern blueberry bees may specialize in pollinating blueberry flowers, they are not the most efficient single-visit pollinators.

Small Local Bees

Many native species of bees are hard to tell apart when they’re flying, and some groups are even hard for experts to tell apart. Bradley’s Andrena is the small native bee most often seen in North Carolina blueberry fields (Andrena bradleyi).

Bradley’s Andrena

Andrena bradleyi

Most of the “small native” bees feed on blueberries are Bradley’s andrena (Andrena bradleyi). When these small native bees visit blueberries, it has been seen that more seeds are set than when honey bees or carpenter bees visit only once. Small native blueberry bees can be told apart from Bradley’s Andrena females by their longer “faces.” The “face” of males has a yellow patch.

Carpenter Bees

Xylocopa spp.

Most of the carpenter bees that live in North Carolina blueberries are Xylocopa virginia. They are different from bumblebees because their abdomens don’t have hair. The “faces” of males have a yellow patch, while the faces of females are all black. Both men and women can have green eyes. Carpenter bees often “steal” nectar from flowers with narrow corollas by cutting slits near the bottom.

In blueberries, these slits can then be used by other bees, reducing the amount of pollen that bees can put on flower stigmas. It has been shown that nectar robbing helps blueberries get pollinated, but it is less effective than visits through the flower’s opening.