Thursday, February 24, 2011

Blueberry Bees

More buzz on bees. Got into a conversation the other day with a botanist who shifted careers to study native bees, partly out of fascination and partly because so little is known about them. We got to talking about blueberry bees, which use rapid wing beats to shake pollen loose from the flower. Here's a description I found via an internet search:

"The southeastern blueberry bee (Habropoda laboriosa) is so named because it is native to the southeastern US and forages primarily on blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) plants. It resembles a small bumble bee (Bombus spp.) and is abundant in blueberry orchards throughout its range. Blueberry plants are most effectively pollinated by sonication and the southeastern blueberry bee is very efficient at this. The bee grabs onto a flower and moves its flight muscles rapidly to release the pollen. The bee's face is then covered in pollen, which is inadvertently deposited at the next flower on which the bee forages." (nbii)

The frequency of the wing beats determines whether the pollen is shaken loose. Since honey bees don't use sonication to shake pollen loose, they have a harder time pollinating blueberry flowers.

Something to look for when the blueberry flowers come out this spring. He also said that native bees can be safely petted, which I had heard before, in reference to bumble bees. Since I've never tried it, please don't take this as a recommendation, but it is interesting to consider that fascination and respect may be more useful responses to bees than a blanket fear. Here's a post, found via an internet search, that includes a video of bumble bee petting, described as a relaxing activity.

1 comment:

  1. I've had sunflowers grow in my back yard and bees really like them- a whole variety of bees in different sizes come flying over when the sunflower pollen is plentiful.

    As to "petting" bees, I believe that the native and bumble bees die if they sting you, so stinging is not their first recourse. Yellow jackets are another story. I have rescued honey and other bees that were drowning in the pool and not been stung.