Honey Bees & Berries

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Honey bees are important pollinators of many of the berries we enjoy eating. We all know berries are packed with natural sugars, making them a sweet treat for us, but what you may not know is that berry blossoms are also dense with highly nutritious nectar, making them important forage for bees. This relationship between berries and bees is mutually beneficial. Growers often introduce managed honey bee colonies to supplement native pollinators in order to ensure berries receive sufficient pollination to optimize their crop yields. 


5Raspberries are a prime example of nectar-rich berry blossoms that are attractive to bees. While raspberry flowers are self pollinating, bees are still responsible for 90–95% of pollination! Bee visits increase the number of drupelets, a.k.a. the individual sections of fruit that make up a raspberry set, by two-to four-fold, regardless of raspberry cultivar. It’s a win-win-win for bees, growers, and everyone who enjoys eating raspberries!


4Honey bees can also improve the quality and shelf life of strawberries. Bees visit strawberry flowers to collect pollen and nectar, and studies show that introducing managed honey bee hives increases crop productivity. Native bees do not generally find strawberries attractive to visit. Therefore, many growers introduce managed honey bee colonies to ensure adequate pollination and a better yield for their strawberry production. For example, a study found cages without honey bees only produce 55% fruit set compared to 65.5% in cages with honey bees. Cages without honey bees also had smaller berries and a higher percentage of deformed berries than the cages with bees.


blueberry honey bees-1At the time of year that most blueberries bloom, wild bee colonies are usually in a nascent phase and not mature enough to provide adequate pollination. Therefore, both honey bees and wild bees will work as a team to pollinate blueberries, and both are essential to maximize yields in this crop. In addition to foraging for nectar and pollen from the top of the blueberry flowers, honey bees may also take advantage of slits made by carpenter bees to feed on nectar, an example of honey and native bees working side by side to produce favorable outcomes. Bumble bees are also excellent at pollinating blueberries, because they can buzz pollen from blueberry flowers, which other bees cannot do. However, bumble bee colony size, supply constraints, and weather conditions all create challenges for depending solely on bumblebees to provide sufficient blueberry pollination.

Beewise Blueberry Research

Last Spring, Beewise partnered with the US Blueberry Highbush Council to study the effects of new pollination technologies on blueberry yield in Washington. We brought an earlier BeeHome model and demonstrated how features including thermoregulation, remote interventions, and Varroa heat treatment can provide improved pollination from healthier bees and increase blueberry yields. See the pilot BeeHomes in action below:


We look forward to continuing our partnership and will be at the Blueberry Summit in Denver this September to meet with growers and share more about our work using AI and robotics to produce better pollination outcomes. 

Work with Beewise

At Beewise, we help growers all over the US experience superior pollination with real bees powered by AI and robotics. To learn more about securing a BeeHome for your pollination needs, please get in touch to discuss.


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