Bumble Bees (Natural Pollination)
Natural pollination using bumblebees (Bombus impatiens) is an effective way of increasing profits and reducing labor costs. Bumblebees can increase crop production through more efficient pollination. Many crops are well suited to natural pollination with bumblebees, including cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, vegetables, seed crops, strawberries, blueberries, cane berries, melons, and squash. The nectar produced by the flowering plants in the greenhouse is not always sufficient for the optimal development of a bumble bee population. For this reason sugar water is supplied. Depending on the circumstances, the hive may be supplied with additional insulation.
NATUPOL Class A hive is available for pollination in greenhouses from 10,000-15,000 square feet. On delivery, this hive contains 75+ workers bees. It has an expected life span of 12-14 weeks.
NATUPOL Class B hive is available for pollination in greenhouses from 5000-10,000 square feet. On delivery, this hive contains 75-100 workers bees. It has an expected life span of 8-10 weeks.
MINIPOL Class C hive is available for small greenhouses less than 5,000 square feet. A Class C hive colony consists of 45 to 60 worker bees. It has an expected life span of 4 - 5 weeks.
MACHOPOL hive consists of 100 bumblebee drones. They operate independant from a colony. Drones are useful for seed breeding, or where small numbers of plants are grown. They can be used in small greenhouses or to pollinate crops as small as 2 to 20 plants. Drones are only interested in nectar, so they will frequently visit male flowers. The only condition for success is the presence of flowers that produce nectar. Drones are very user-friendly – they do not sting
You will find that bumblebees are a cut above other insects, such as honeybees, when complete pollination is your goal. They work faster, visiting many more flowers per minute. Their large size lets them carry huge pollen loads, allowing longer foraging trips, and achieving better contact with flowers. Bumblebees will also work under conditions that other pollinators find intolerable. First of all, they can pollinate in a greenhouse. More importantly, bumblebees can work in temperatures below 50 degrees F, the perfect solution for pollinating your early spring blooms. Honeybees have not proved to be effective in either of these environments. Not even strong wind or moderate rainfall will prevent the bumblebees in your GARDEN from going about their pollination duties.
10 Reasons to Use Bumblebees
Benefits of Bumble Bees
Bumble bees are among the most charismatic of insects. Their robust frame and fuzziness combined with their charming habit of buzzing dutifully from flower to flower have brought joy to many of their onlookers. But why would you wish to step beyond these casual glances and actually handle these bees.
- Bumblebees are active at temperatures near 40°F (5°C), honeybees become active at temperatures near 60-65°F (15-18°C).
- Bumblebees are active on cloudy, foggy, and rainy days. Honeybees are less active at low light levels.
- Bumblebees will fly in winds of up to 40mph (64km/hr).
- Bumblebees pollinate flowers through a method called “buzz pollination”, a rapid vibrating motion which releases large amounts of pollen onto the bee. In most situations, “buzz pollination” will allow a bumblebee to pollinate a flower in a single visit. A honeybee typically needs to visit a flower between 7-10 times before it is fully pollinated.
- Bumblebees lack the sophisticated communication system of honeybees, and are less likely to leave your crop for more attractive flowers.
- Unlike honeybees, bumblebees are attracted to flowers with narrow corolla tubes, such as blueberries and cranberries.
- Bumblebees are much more efficient pollinators than honeybees. They mainly forage for pollen rather than nectar, and transfer more pollen to the pistils with each visit.
- Bumblebees promote higher rates of cross-pollination, as they forage between plants more randomly than honeybees.
- Bumblebees visit many more blooms per minute than honeybees.
- Bumblebees work earlier in the morning and later into the evening hours.
- Bumblebees work better in tunnels, as they have a better sense of direction.
- Bumblebees are safer for you and your employees. Bumblebees are non-swarming and much less aggressive than honeybees.
- Bumblebees can be used in conjunction with honeybees to enhance pollination.
Some people raise bumble bees out of curiosity, wanting to see firsthand what happens in a bumble bee nest, as these events are normally hidden from our sight. Others rear bumble bees to learn more about the different species for scientific reasons, as there are vast gaps in our knowledge of the biology of most bumble bee species.
Most people raise bumble bees to benefit from their impressive pollination services, a service that is vital to both food production and the health of our ecosystem. With a large variety of problems afflicting the honey bee industry such as pests, pesticides, diseases, and poor financial returns, it is important to broaden the range of bee species used for commercial pollination.
Unlike honey bees, which were imported to the Americas by European colonists, there are many bumble bees that are native to North America. Having evolved along with our native plants, bumble bees are efficient and important pollinators of many native wildflowers and crops such as cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, squash, and melons.
A single hive will pollinate any garden. With a maintenance-free Bumblebee hive you don't have to be a beekeeper to have the benefits of proper pollination. We will deliver the hive to your door via UPS. All you have to do is remove the hive from the shipping box, place it near your garden on a cinderblock or bricks, open the hive entrance, and walk away. The bumblebees will do the rest. Sheltering the hive from the elements (sun and rain) can further enhance your GARDENs performance.
The handling that occurs during shipping can be a bit upsetting to the bumblebees in a newly delivered hive, leaving them agitated and very eager to leave their home. To ensure that your pollinators have had sufficient time to calm down after transport, we cover the hive opening with a fiber mesh that the bumblebees must chew through before they can leave the enclosure. They will usually gnaw through about an hour after the hive gate is opened. By this time, they have calmed down and are ready to peacefully adjust to their new surroundings.
Why is there mesh over the exit of the hive doors?
After shipping the bees are quite agitated. Once placed in the crop and the doors are slid to the open position, the bumblebees must chew their way through the mesh tape. They will chew through the tape within 3-6 hours. This period of time will allow the bees time to calm down from shipping and handling. When the bumblebees can finally leave the hive, they will perform orientation flights marking the location of their hives with respect to the crop and landmarks. If the bumblebees leave the hive in an agitated state, it is likely they will not perform their orientation flights and will not be able to return to their hive. If the mesh is still intact after 24 hours, use a utility knife to carefully remove the tape.
As with most other species of bees, bumblebees can sting, though they rarely do. In hydroponic greenhouses all over the world, the bumblebees work side by side with greenhouse workers…INDOORS!! Because bumblebees are very docile in comparison to other bees, the incidence of people being stung is quite rare. In an outdoor garden, your contact with an upset bumblebee would be an extremely uncommon occurrence. In fact, we think spending time in your garden watching friendly bumblebees go speedily about their work is a fascinating experience. Every time you see a flower being visited by one of your bumblebees, you'll know that in a few short weeks you will have a beautifully developed fruit in its place, waiting to be enjoyed by family and friends.
Introduction schedule It is recomended that you time the introduction of the first hive with the expected opening of the first blossoms in the crop. Re-introduce new hives as the colony declines (expected life span).Use instructions
Place the hive 0.5 to 1 meter above the ground, in a place that is protected against sun and condensation/rainwater. During the winter period, placement in the sun may be desirable. Do not place the hive among foliage!
After placement of the hive, let the bumblebees settle down for a while (½ - 1 hour) before opening the flight hole.
If the crop is located in greenhouses or tunnels, open the flight hole of the hive when the ventilation windows are closed (at the end of the afternoon). This will prevent the bumblebees from going outside the greenhouse during their orientation flights and not returning to the hive. Following their initial orientation flights the bumblebees will immediately start pollinating the crop. In general, bumble bees are most active in the morning and in the afternoon. Their activity also depends on the flowering pattern of the crop. Bumble bees are active at temperatures between 50 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. They function best at temperatures between 59 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
Systemic pesticides (pesticides that are absorbed through the roots) often have a long-lasting residual effect. If a flower produces nectar in addition to pollen (e.g. sweet pepper), the damage to the bumble bee population may be much more serious than in a crop that only produces pollen (e.g. tomato).
In all cases the BEEHOME option of the hive must be activated before the crop is treated. This option ensures that bumble bees can enter, but not leave the hive. After about an hour the hive can be closed completely, so that it can either be covered or removed from the greenhouse. If the hive is temporarily removed from the greenhouse, it should be stored at 64 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit.