Yesterday I attended a short course on Native Pollinators presented by The Xerces Society and held at MOFGA’s education center. While much of the course seemed restatements of common sense for establishing pollinator habitat (“use less pesticide” being one example) there were some statements that caught my attention.
Just under 250 native pollinators work our wild blueberries. That does not include the honey bee (which is native to Europe.) It makes me wonder if a truly agricultural chemical free operation that worked to provide buffer habitat for native pollinators around the blueberry fields, would get adequate pollination without the use of honey bees.
One consideration would have to be the size of the blueberry field as there are ground dwelling bees that would have a tough time surviving bi-annual prunnings, and would have flight distance limitations from buffer habitat. Perhaps you have pollinator habitats scattered throughout the field.
The big advantage to humans that honey bees have for the pollination of wild blueberries over native pollinators is that honey bees can be managed. You can flood an area with honey bees and be confident that as long as the weather conditions are conducive to honey bee flight, you’ll achieve adequate pollination. The key phrase there is “conducive to honey bee flight.” Today is rainy with the temperature hovering around 50. Honey Bees are sticking to the hive today whereas some of the native pollinators will be out pollinating.
With a typical monoculture blueberry operation, the honey bee colonies are removed at the end of bloom and removed to pollinate another crop somewhere else. Native pollinators can’t be moved and depending on individual pollinator concerns, may starve. So a habitat consisting of a progression of pollen and nectar sources is needed.
At BeeBerry Woods, I think there is plenty of existing native pollinator habitat. Perhaps it can be augmented with bee blocks for wood dwelling pollinators, but since the vast majority of native pollinators are ground dwelling we don’t need to go crazy putting out blocks. I do need to think about how I go about pruning the field – presently I mow with a rotary mower – it might not be a bad idea to establish habitat islands within the field.
Of course at present our blueberry field (between 5 and 10 acres in size) is not commercially harvested – though I admit to having fantasies that one day it will. It is being encroached on by great bee plants – golden rod and field roses – so while I lament the loss of picture perfect blueberry field – I enjoy having the additional food sources for the bees.
This summer I will endeavor to photograph and identify native pollinators around the property and post their pictures here. That presumes I’ll learn how to post pictures. One can hope.