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  • First Sighting of Bees Today!!!!

    I feel like I say this every spring but I just haven't seen any bees at all this season until today. Saw my first honey bee working the blues. The bad thing is some of my plants are half way done blooming and fruit set looks to be pretty poor on Emerald so far with only half to a quarter of the buds setting fruit. The second wave of buds are already open on Emerald so I got my fingers crossed the bees will get the job done and save the season for me. Springhigh looks like it set a pretty good crop and is done with its bloom. Sweetcrisp seems to be holding some fruit as well but its almost done blooming too. Sunshine is just now kicking in gear. Havent seen any Bumble Bees yet which is alarming. I usually see the big queen BB before I see the honey bees. I may just have to get into the bee business!

    Has any one in the south seen or had luck with mason bees? Ive ordered some cocoons 3 years in a row and only one year did I get the females to stick around lay some eggs. I got 10 cocoons that year but since then its been a bust. The ones I ordered were the horn faced mason bee and I can promise you they are not meant to be in Houston Tx. Im thinking about getting some of the blue orchard mason bees and trying them out for a couple years. I found a site that has them for long hot summer areas and shorter cool summer areas. Worth a shot and they sure are fun to watch when they get busy building there nests.

  • #2
    I don't think I'm seeing as many bees as other years. Yet. It hadn't occurred to me but perhaps the reason I've had too many unset fruit the early part of the season is lack of pollination. I thought it was from a very short, very cold (not quite freezing) and very dry episode a month or two ago, but that didn't make total sense.

    As for bees, there are avocado orchards on both sides, and they have hives, so enough usually make their way here. I think those are my main BB pollinators. They are said to be not as efficient as other bee-types, like bumble bees. I do see some of those on occasion, but none yet this year. Wish I had more.

    Hummingbirds also commonly visit my berries. I assume they are doing some pollinating.

    It never occurred to me to bring in any sort of bee because my fruiting has always been good when there has been good flowering. Some varieties over-crop in fact. I've read about the Florida BB bumble bee. Does any one sell those? I'd think with some growers planting in hoop houses that they might try.
    SoCal, zone 10.
    www.ourfigs.com Invite your friends.

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    • #3
      Honey bees usually do most the work here as well. They are just such fair weather workers and unfortunately my blues don't always bloom in fair weather. I haven't ever had a poor fruit set year but I always think Im going to! My glass is just always half empty I guess.

      Ive read about the BB bumble bee and they are also known as digger bees I believe. Ive seen a map online and it shows them to be established through out East Texas which is pretty much where I am. Never seen one though. Maybe I just need more blueberry plants to attract them!!!

      Ive looked into trying to raise bees but honey bees are just to much work for me, that's why I was trying out the Hornfaced Mason bees but that was a bust. Bumble bees would be cool to but I think its just pure luck to get one to nest where you want it. Plus I think they can be pretty aggressive if the nest is disturbed and I can promise you my youngest son Lance would be the one to do it. He would come running in the house screaming looking like a pomegranate from all the bee stings! He just cant leave anything alone.

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      • #4
        Rob,

        I am really surprised you don't have the southern BB bee....they do 90% of my pollinating. They are the oddest little bumble bees they are here in the 100's when the BB are in bloom and when the BB are done, poof.......they are gone. Never see them again working any other flower, not even the citrus. The honey bees here only do about 5% and the other 5% is skippers (small butterfly) and some bright green bee. I know they do sell the southern BB bees because my commercial friend gets a couple of boxes of them in addition to the honeybees he rents.
        Cutting sales on willsfigs.com started Nov 1 and will continue till about March 1.

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        • #5
          Speaking of bees, a small swarm passed through the yard today, briefly settling in some bushes to the N end of the property. A few hours later, it was gone. Hope it finds an acceptable home somewhere near.

          A couple years ago, a swarm settled in the water meter box in the front yard near the blueberries. The water company hired a bee keeper to safely remove and move it to a better place.
          SoCal, zone 10.
          www.ourfigs.com Invite your friends.

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          • #6
            Thanks for that info Wills, I didn't realize they sell the SBB. I will do some research on that and see whats up. Next time you talk to your commercial friend if you can remember ask him where he gets his from. I would love to order a bunch of those next spring and for several years after as well. It would be cool to establish those rascals here in my neck of the woods.

            Gina, last year we had house right down the street get taken over buy a swarm of honey bees. They had to remove all the hardy siding along one side of the house to get them all out. I don't believe they tried to just remove them though, the exterminated them! Crying shame and you can blame the grocery stores for making food so available people for get or are out of touch with what it takes to grow that food. Made me sick to my stomach watching those guys fog out 1000s of bees.

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            • #7
              Rob,

              I will send him a email and ask.
              Cutting sales on willsfigs.com started Nov 1 and will continue till about March 1.

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              • #8
                Rob,

                Sorry I was incorrect. The bees he has in addition to the honey bees are Bombus impatiens. His BB are in fact done blooming so going to go pick up the two boxes of bees in the morning as mine are still blooming. He said he will have the first picking in less than two weeks, the miracle of Dormex
                Cutting sales on willsfigs.com started Nov 1 and will continue till about March 1.

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                • #9
                  Not sure which is which on the plants, but either carpenter or bumblebees do most of my blueberry pollinating. It's actually pretty hilarious to see this giant bee pollinating these little bitty flowers. They generally show up around now...I'm sure temps in the 70s today will help.
                  Brett in Athens, GA zone 7b/8a

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by WillsC View Post
                    Rob,

                    Sorry I was incorrect. The bees he has in addition to the honey bees are Bombus impatiens. His BB are in fact done blooming so going to go pick up the two boxes of bees in the morning as mine are still blooming. He said he will have the first picking in less than two weeks, the miracle of Dormex ]
                    Finished blooming? wow. I"ve still got a lot of buds that haven't begun to open. But I'm also picking a scant few berries every day too 10 to 20, depending on how desperate for berries I am. I'm hoping for a very long season this year. 10 days of predicted 70* weather should help things along.

                    SoCal, zone 10.
                    www.ourfigs.com Invite your friends.

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                    • #11
                      Gina,

                      It is the Dormex......it makes the plants bloom earlier and really concentrates the bloom window. It is a commercial only chemical, not that I would want it as I prefer later. I forgot I had a "weeder" coming this morning so will pick the bees up Saturday morning.
                      Cutting sales on willsfigs.com started Nov 1 and will continue till about March 1.

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                      • #12
                        I've read about dormex but thought it was more for getting 'shy' plants to better leaf-out in spring. Didn't know it was used also for earlier blooming and concentrating the harvest. With the combo of breeding for ever- lower chill varieties, use of hoop houses, and dormex they'll maybe be able to have Christmas harvests in no frost areas. Guess that's where the best money is - the very early harvests.

                        I also want very early ripening fruits, as well as a really long harvest season. I'm not sure year-round harvest of any significance is possible, but I think in warm years February through June might be - in my part of the world anyway.


                        Hmmm, I wonder if with the really low chill varieties on the horizon.. even no chill ones, I wonder if they can get them to bloom in the fall with dormex? I wonder if there are strong photoperiod responses in BBs.
                        Last edited by Gina; 03-05-2015, 09:47 AM.
                        SoCal, zone 10.
                        www.ourfigs.com Invite your friends.

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                        • #13
                          Rob:

                          In my greenhouse with no bees Springhigh sets very well. Emerald and Sweetcrisp set almost nothing. So if you have a partial crop on the later two there has likely been a few bees around.

                          Does anyone know if honeybees actually work on blueberry? I think I've read they can't reach far enough inside the flower to pollinate. Also when I've set plants outside they are not attracted to bb as far as I can tell. Bumblebees do the job in my greenhouse but the hive this yr cost $250 with overnight shipping.
                          Alpine, Texas 4500ft elevation Zone 7
                          http://growingfruit.org/

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                          • #14
                            Does anyone know if honeybees actually work on blueberry? I think I've read they can't reach far enough inside the flower to pollinate. Also when I've set plants outside they are not attracted to bb as far as I can tell. Bumblebees do the job in my greenhouse but the hive this yr cost $250 with overnight shipping.
                            I believe honeybees do pollinate BBs (and actively work mine when it's warn and they are around), but not as efficiently. Apparently it's not just their reach, but also the 'buzz' factor. Something about how bumble bees shake the flowers and honey bees do not. I just read something a month or so ago. Not sure I can find it, but it was an interesting read.
                            SoCal, zone 10.
                            www.ourfigs.com Invite your friends.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Gina View Post

                              I believe honeybees do pollinate BBs (and actively work mine when it's warn and they are around), but not as efficiently. Apparently it's not just their reach, but also the 'buzz' factor. Something about how bumble bees shake the flowers and honey bees do not. I just read something a month or so ago. Not sure I can find it, but it was an interesting read.
                              Gina:

                              I read that also. But when watching the bumblebees on my bb it doesn't appear that they are shaking the blossom or collecting pollen. They seem to be drinking nectar. Just doing that must be working because everything is setting fruit this yr that didn't the last two yrs with no bees.

                              As I said above if your SC and Emerald are setting with honeybees then they must be pollinating the flowers.
                              Alpine, Texas 4500ft elevation Zone 7
                              http://growingfruit.org/

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                              • #16
                                No question Honey Bees do pollinate blues but as Gina said they are not as efficient. I read a article about that and from a commercial point of view if there is not a average of 4-6 honey bees working each blueberry bush than you need to suppliment pollinators.
                                I found a place online to get a C class Bumble Bee hive for $80. Says they are good for outdoor or green house and it comes with around 40-50 bees. That would be more than enough to pollinate all my plants and neighbors plants. I know the queen lays eggs and creates more workers and toward the end of her life she makes a few male and female eggs which are responible for the following years brewed of Bumble Bees. That being said, it states the hive will pollinate for 4-8weeks. Is that life span only inside a green house? If placed outdoors will the hive continue to crank out worker bees all season long? I want to try this next spring and maybe order a bigger class B hive along with some homemade nests for the emerging female bees to potentially nest in. Would be a fun experiment if nothing else.
                                Ive heard bumble bees performing sonication on my blueberry flowers. Not all the time though as some are just looking for nectar. When Ive heard them sonicating the flowers it was usually the big female bees that showed up early in the bloom cycle collecting pollen to feed the larve. I have also noticed more of the sonication being done on Rabbiteye flowers as the opening is smaller and the flower longer than SHB.
                                The money Ive spent on mason bees could have established a robust Bumble Bee population around here. At the same time I wonder if introducing lab raised BB to our wild population would have any negative effects? I would think the lab BB would be much more prone to disease and mite issues since there not native. Im grasping at straws here!

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                                • #17
                                  This is my first yr with a class B hive. Before about 7 yrs with Class C. My hive this yr arrived Febr 5, 4 wks ago. Just today the huge females emerged and are mating with the males. Don't know how may more weeks that means bees but I don't need much more. The class B hive was $140 plus 110 for overnight shipping.

                                  The C hive also had some big females after about 4 weeks but not as many.

                                  They do have big expensive outdoor hives. I don't know if they'd just fly off outdoors. I think these queens would as they are bouncing off the walls and ceiling. They're also looking for dens even digging in the soil.
                                  Alpine, Texas 4500ft elevation Zone 7
                                  http://growingfruit.org/

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                                  • #18
                                    When spring comes, I have alot of Honey bees that come from somewhere, but I rarely see them on my BBs if ever. They are too busy going bat-shirt-crazy over the Grape Hyacinth. For the most part, so far, my BB flowers have just sat there looking all neglected.
                                    Last year was the first year I tried the Blue Orchard Mason Bees, they actually did work the BBs, too bad most of the other trees blossoms froze. Between my lack of the appropiate mud and flowers, my bees wandered off. I'm not sure weather to buy some more or wait and see if they just nested elsewhere and come back. The bee company screwed up my order and sent me a TON of bees, I called them and pointed out what my order should have been and they refunded my money and said just let the bees go because you can't return them. It was a bad year for such a fortunate mix-up, no rain for mud and very little fruit tree flowers. I gave quit a few boxes away, but it was the same situation all over our area.
                                    Calvin, Wish list is to finish working on the new house, someday.
                                    Bored? Grab a rake, paint roller, or a cordless drill and come over!

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                                    • #19
                                      Now you guys have me all paranoid about my pollinators. Was just out watering them, and only saw one on the blueberries. Of course right now there aren't many flowers so what could I expect. There seems to be good set on the earlier bloomers. Judging by the buds, there should be another flush of blooms so maybe they'll find them again. In the past, I just took it for granted. This year I didn't see one bumblebee, and one hummer near them. Of course there were many, many, many hours when I wasn;'t watching, lol.
                                      SoCal, zone 10.
                                      www.ourfigs.com Invite your friends.

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                                      • #20
                                        Picked up 5 of these quad boxes today. Commercial friend was done with them as his bloom is over, I would say I am only half way through bloom though can't tell that from the bushes in the picture. While I have plenty of wild bees I figured these would add more colonies to the local area. Have this box in the back BB bed, these bushes were planted in the spring of 2013. The blooms were pruned off last season and will let them fruit this year. Click image for larger version

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                                        Cutting sales on willsfigs.com started Nov 1 and will continue till about March 1.

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                                        • #21
                                          Honey Bees do in fact pollinate BB's. It makes for a very lite sweet honey . I have 2 hives currently at "Black River Blues" Blueberry farm . with the mild winter here in Washington state the BB's and a whole lot of other fruit started early this year. last year I didn't take them over there until mid April.
                                          Last edited by DawgDrvr; 03-10-2015, 02:32 AM. Reason: no punctuation , all one long sentence .

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                                          • #22
                                            Yes the honey bees do pollinate the BB but they are just not very good at it. To completely pollinate a BB blossom it takes many visits from a honeybee to get the job done. The Southern blueberry bee and the bumble bees can pollinate a blossom completely in as little as one visit due to the vibrations they make. Carpenter bees instead of going in through the flower end make a slit at the flowers base bypassing the pollen and then the honeybees simply use that slit to rob nectar. Even if the flower is cut the BB bee and the small bumble bees still use the flower opening.
                                            Cutting sales on willsfigs.com started Nov 1 and will continue till about March 1.

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                                            • #23
                                              Two days ago I saw the first bumble bees going around my 7 acres Blueberry farm. Although it will be another month or so before I see the first BB bloom.
                                              I'd say Bumble bees pollinate 95% of my BB. I take a good care for them and never spray any Pesticide or fungicide around my property. I will be lost without them.
                                              There are literally thousants of Bumble bees pollinating the BB around the end of April here is a short clip I made last year.
                                              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FKO2hFyBl0
                                              These are all wild bumble bees
                                              Last edited by penandpike; 03-10-2015, 05:52 PM.
                                              Pen Europe, Bulgaria, Zone-6a

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                                              • #24
                                                They are workhorses.....
                                                Cutting sales on willsfigs.com started Nov 1 and will continue till about March 1.

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                                                • #25
                                                  I have not seen southern BB bees or mason bees in my area (Texas 8B) yet but several honeybees have been constantly visiting the BB flowers. Yes, honeybees actually pollinate the BB (though inefficiently) as I observe they are collecting the BB pollen in their "pollen basket" located at the hind leg (if you enlarge the third picture and look at the hind leg of bee). I have some SHB and couple of RE (Climax and Austin) and I observed honeybees visiting both SHB and RE. Though I read RE is supposed to flower about a week or so before SHB but the buds in Austin are not yet open whereas Climax are blossoming well. Does anyone know if SHB can be pollinizer for RE?
                                                  You may only view thumbnails in this gallery. This gallery has 3 photos.
                                                  Last edited by Inkfin; 03-13-2015, 09:05 PM.
                                                  Zone 8B, Texas

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                                                  • WillsC
                                                    WillsC commented
                                                    Editing a comment
                                                    SHBXRe works just fine.

                                                  • Inkfin
                                                    Inkfin commented
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                                                    Wills, thanks for the comment. Climax set fruits on those flowers before Austin buds open, must be with SHB as pollinizer.
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