Bumblebees and Pollination

David Pattemore with an artificial bumblebee hive

Much of the food we eat every day relies on pollination services provided by honeybees.
But honeybees are in a bit of strife these days – in New Zealand, varroa mite is having a huge impact on hive productivity, and the mites have developed resistance to two of the three chemicals used to control them.

However our pollination scientists  are looking at whether or not bumblebees could also be recruited to pollinate flowers in commercial orchards. There are four introduced species of bumblebee in New Zealand, with Bombus terrestris being the most important pollinator. Radio New Zealand’s Alison Ballance recently visited our Ruakura site, near Hamilton, and met David Pattemore, to find out about our new project involving radio-tracking wild bumblebee queens in avocado orchards to find out what kinds of nests they prefer, and installing artificial hives (pictured above) that they hope will attract bumblebee colonies and provide a way of allowing growers to monitor bumblebee numbers on their properties.

While honeybees will remain the main pollinators, this research may allow bumblebees to become an important contributor.

Click here to hear the Radio New Zealand Podcast.

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