Multi-Hives are boosting Spanish blueberry crop yields

26/11/2020 - Blueberries are a crop that tends to flower intensely, in short periods of around four to five weeks.  In Spain, flowering occurs in autumn and winter and satisfactory pollination is crucial for good fruit set and ultimately marketable yields.

Traditional approach

“It has been shown that the better the pollination, the greater the viability of the seed in the blueberry fruits and therefore the larger the fruit size,” explains Miguel Claros, Berry Specialist at Biobest Spain.  “Honeybee hives have traditionally been deployed for this task.
“However, although honeybees can be very numerous and travel far on collection flights, they have certain drawbacks in regard to pollinating blueberry crops.

“For example, honeybees do not work well on cloudy, rainy or windy days. They cannot vibrate and, as blueberry pollen is sticky and heavy, need to visit the same flower several times to effectively pollinate it.  Honeybees are also strongly attracted to nectar, which means they can easily become distracted from blueberry flowers to those with more attractive nectar.”  

Bumblebee benefits

For these reasons Biobest recommends also deploying bumblebee hives - which coexist with the honeybee hives - to optimise pollination rates and therefore fruit yield.

As Miguel explains, in regard to temperature bumblebees benefit from being active much earlier than honeybees - at temperatures as low as 5ºC.

“They can also vibrate their bodies helping to release large amounts of pollen - so a single visit to a flower is often sufficient,” he says. “In addition, bumblebees prefer pollen to nectar so stay focussed on the target crop and are not easily distracted by other blooms.

“At Biobest we have found the best pollination strategy is to combine the use of honeybees and bumblebees. We recommend deploying these pollinators at a rate of 3-4 honeybee hives to every 2-3 Biobest bumblebee Multi-Hives per ha.”

Unique Multi-Hives

The unique design of Biobest Multi-Hives provides great durability, especially for outdoor crops that must withstand fluctuating temperatures and weather changes.

Multi-Hive from Biobest

“Carefully insulated, the box provides protection for the hive inside,” explains Miguel. “Preventing sudden rises or drops in temperature means the worker bumblebees continue working and do not stop to ventilate the hive.

“Our Multi-Hives are proving fundamental in supporting blueberry crop pollination in Spain. Since bumblebees work faster and for longer during the day they are helping to ensure good fruit set during an intense flowering period.”

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