Honey bee crop pollination – Macadamia orchards

“Busy as a bee” This quotation has been heard and said millions of times, but do we ever stop and actually think about what we just heard or said. Honey bees visit up to 2000 flowers in a day collecting nectar and pollen. That is an awful lot of flying around to do in a short space of time…… busy busy bee.

Honey bee crop pollination is a critical part of natures master reproduction plan. Bees pollinate more than 80% of all cultivated crops. This is essential for the continuation of the plant species and for us human beings.

Honey bees

There are approximately 20 000 species of bees in the Apoidea super family. Honey bees are separated and different from wasps and flying ants and other insect pollinators because honey bees are considered Herbivorous and obtain all their nutrition from pollen and nectar, their intricately designed bodies produce honey, royal jelly and bees wax. They can only fly short distances and aerodynamically shouldn’t be able to fly. Bees will work in temperatures from 7 degrees and upward, the warmer it is the more they work. They do not like cold, wet windy conditions a lot like us.

Some bee facts:

  • To make half a kilogram of honey a bee would have to collect nectar from two million flowers.
  • On one collection trip a bee will visit 50 – 100 flowers
  • Bees communicate through dancing
  • Bees can fly at 25kms per hour
  • Bees can fly for 9.5kms
  • Bees are one of the few insects that produce food that humans eat.

Crop pollination

There are numerous species used around the world for crop pollination. Honey bees pollinate 2/3rds of what we eat.

There are now places in our world where there are not enough naturally wild bees to pollinate all the crops and bee farmers are being used in order to get crop pollination. Natural bees are declining daily due to pesticides, natural pests, introduced predators and habitat destruction.

Honey bees and Macadamia orchards

Looking at macadamia flowers they are 5-10mm long, there are 100-150 flowers per racemes and depending on the age of the tree approximately 2500 racemes per tree. An awesome find for honey bees. It takes about one week for all the flowers to open although most flowers open in the first 2 or 3 days.

Research has shown that the honey bees are only attracted to the flowers for the first 3 – 5 days of opening. With this in mind it would take approximately 150 bee visits for full pollination. Research has also shown that of all the pollinating insects per racemes honey bees account for 62.7% (17 honey bee visits per 15 minutes) flies ( 8 fly visits per 15 minutes) on average.

These visits produced higher nut set and higher yields compared to isolated plants, so honey bees directly affect nut set, yield and nut weight.

Benefits of honey bee pollination

Cross pollination of certain different macadamia varieties have been found to increase nut set, yield, nut weight and kernel quality by as much as 50% in some cases. This verifies the need to plan one’s planting and plan the configuration of the different varieties within the lands.

The positioning of the hives is critical, 5 – 8 hives per hectare is the recommended. The construction of the bee boxes and the positioning of the boxes is very important.

Protection from the elements, natural predators and pesticides must be considered. It is well worth seeking professional help with this to get the maximum benefits from the honey bees.

Conclusion

The macadamia producer now, not only, has awesome nuts and liquid gold macadamia oil he has beautiful sweet honey and natural bees wax to add to his list.

This is a very basic overview of the topic, please contact us if you require any further in depth information and we will be happy to assist you with as much information as we can.

 

 

 

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