Increasing Honey Bee Hive Densities Promotes Pollination and Yield Components of Highbush Blueberry in Western Washington

in HortScience

Yield components including fruit set and berry size in northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) can be limited in key production regions like western Washington. Climactic conditions influence the activity levels of blueberry’s primary commercial pollinator, honey bee (Apis mellifera). Cool springs with frequent rainfall, which are common during the spring bloom period in western Washington, can reduce honey bee activity, pollination efficiency, and subsequent fruit set and yields. Increasing honey bee hive density may be a simple technique that growers can employ to increase the number of honey bees foraging during periods of good weather, interspersed with the poor weather, and therefore, increase fruit set and related yield components. The objective of this study was to evaluate if increased honey bee hive densities improve pollination and subsequent yield components in western Washington blueberry. Three field sites with mature ‘Duke’ plants were stocked with 10 hives/ha of honey bees (control), and three other field sites (also ‘Duke’) were stocked with 20 hives/ha (high hive density). Honey bee visitation and yield components, including fruit set and berry weight, were measured. Estimated yield, seed number/berry, and fruit firmness were also monitored. There were no significant differences in fruit set regardless of honey bee hive density. However, honey bee visitation and estimated yield increased with increased honey bee hive density. Berry weight and seed number per berry were also increased with increased honey bee hive density, although firmness was unaffected. Results indicate that increasing honey bee hive densities can help blueberry growers improve berry size and overall yields, suggesting this is a practice growers can implement if their production is constrained by insufficient pollination.

Contributor Notes

We would like to acknowledge the grower cooperators who participated in this trial, Bellevue Bees for their assistance with treatment application, and the Washington Blueberry Commission for funding.

Graduate Research Assistant.

Assistant Professor.

Corresponding authors. E-mail: matthew.arrington@wsu.edu or lisa.devetter@wsu.edu.

Article Sections

Article Figures

  • View in gallery

    Honey bee visitation/bush/minute in blueberry sites stocked with 10 or 20 hives/ha in 2016 and 2017. Error bars represent standard error.

  • View in gallery

    Estimated yield/bush of blueberry sites stocked with 10 or 20 hive/ha in 2016 and 2017. Error bars represent standard error.

  • View in gallery

    Relationship between seed number/berry and berry weight fitted with a general linear model.

Article References

  • AlonsoC.VamosiJ.C.KnightT.M.SteetsJ.A.AshmanT.L.2010Is reproduction of endemic plant species particularly pollen limited in biodiversity hotspots?Oikos119711921200

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BalfourN.J.GarbuzovM.RatnieksF.L.2013Longer tongues and swifter handling: Why do more bumble bees (Bombus spp.) than honey bees (Apis mellifera) forage on lavender (Lavandula spp.)?Ecol. Entomol.384323329

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BenjaminF.E.WinfreeR.2014Lack of pollinators limits fruit production in commercial blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)Environ. Entomol.43615741583

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BrewerJ.W.DobsonR.C.1969Seed count and berry size in relation to pollinator level and harvest date for the highbush blueberry, Vaccinium corymbosumJ. Econ. Entomol.62613531356

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BuchmannS.L.1985Bees use vibration to aid pollen collection from non-poricidal flowersJ. Kans. Entomol. Soc.372517525

  • CoombeB.G.1976The development of fleshy fruitsAnnu. Rev. Plant Physiol.271207228

  • CourcellesD.M.ButtonL.ElleE.2013Bee visit rates vary with floral morphology among highbush blueberry cultivars (Vaccinium corymbosum L.)J. Appl. Entomol.1379693701

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • DankaR.G.LangG.A.GuptonC.L.1993Honey bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) visits and pollen source effects on fruiting of ‘Gulfcoast’ southern highbush blueberryJ. Econ. Entomol.861131136

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • DelaplaneK.S.MayerD.R.MayerD.F.2000Crop pollination by bees. CABI CAB International Wallingford UK

  • DeVetterL.W.WatkinsonS.SagiliR.LawrenceT.2016Honey bee activity in northern highbush blueberry differs across growing regions in Washington StateHortScience5112281232

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • DogteromM.H.WinstonM.L.MukaiA.2000Effect of pollen load size and source (self, outcross) on seed and fruit production in highbush blueberry cv. ‘Bluecrop’ (Vaccinium corymbosum; Ericaceae)Amer. J. Bot.871115841591

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • EatonG.W.1967The relationship between seed number and berry weight in open-pollinated highbush blueberriesHortScience21415

  • EhlenfeldtM.K.MartinR.B.2002A survey of fruit firmness in highbush blueberry and species-introgressed blueberry cultivarsHortScience37386389

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • EhlenfeldtM.K.MartinR.B.Jr2009Seed set, fruit weight, and yield in highbush (Vaccinium corymbosum l.) Blueberry cultivars ‘Duke’ and ‘Bluecrop’J. Amer. Pomol. Soc.643162172

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • GaribaldiL.A.Steffan-DewenterI.WinfreeR.AizenM.A.BommarcoR.CunninghamS.A.KremenC.CarvalheiroL.G.HarderL.D.AfikO.BartomeusI.2013Wild pollinators enhance fruit set of crops regardless of honey bee abundanceScience339612716081611

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • HowellG.S.KilbyM.W.NelsonJ.W.1972Influence of timing of hive introduction on production of highbush blueberriesHortScience7129131

  • IsaacsR.GibbsJ.MayE.2016Invest in pollination for success with highbush blueberries. MSU Extension. 6 Oct. 2017. <http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/invest_in_pollination_for_success_with_highbush_blueberries>.

  • JavorekS.K.MackenzieK.E.Vander KloetS.P.2002Comparative pollination effectiveness among bees (Hymenoptera: Apoidea) on lowbush blueberry (Ericaceae: Vaccinium angustifolium)Ann. Entomol. Soc. Amer.953345351

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • JohnsonL. K.MalladiA.NeSmithD.S.2011Differences in cell number facilitate fruit size variation in rabbiteye blueberry genotypesJ. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci.1361015

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • KnightT.M.SteetsJ.A.VamosiJ.C.MazerS.J.BurdM.CampbellD.R.DudashM.R.JohnstonM.O.MitchellR.J.AshmanT.L.2005Pollen limitation of plant reproduction: Pattern and processAnnu. Rev. Ecol. Evol. Syst.361467497

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • KrebsS.L.HancockJ.F.1988The consequences of inbreeding on fertility in Vaccinium corymbosum LJ. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci.113914918

  • LeeT.D.1988Patterns of fruit and seed production p. 179–202. In: J. Lovett Doust and L. Lovett Doust (eds.). Plant reproductive ecology: Patterns and strategies. Oxford University Press New York NY

  • MacKenzieK.E.1997Pollination requirements of three highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) cultivarsJ. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci.122891896

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • MendiburuF.2014Statistical procedures for agricultural research; package ‘agricolae’. Natl. Eng. Univ. Lima Peru MS Diss

  • PrittsM.P.HancockJ.F.1992Highbush blueberry production guide. Northeast Region Agricultural Engineering Service NRAES-55

  • RetamalesJ.B.HancockJ.F.2012Blueberries Vol. 21. CABI CAB International Wallingford UK

  • RStudio Team2015RStudio: Integrated Development for R. RStudio Inc. Boston MA. 15 Nov. 2017. <http://www.rstudio.com>.

  • SaftnerR.PolashockJ.EhlenfeldtM.VinyardB.2008Instrumental and sensory quality characteristics of blueberry fruit from twelve cultivarsPostharvest Biol. Technol.4911926

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • SagiliR.R.BurgettD.M.2011Evaluating honey bee colonies for pollination: A guide for commercial growers and beekeepers. Pacific Northwest Extension publication PNW 623

  • TuellJ.K.AscherJ.S.IsaacsR.2009Wild bees (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Anthophila) of the Michigan highbush blueberry agroecosystemAnn. Entomol. Soc. Amer.1022275287

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • TuellJ.K.IsaacsR.2010Weather during bloom affects pollination and yield of highbush blueberryJ. Econ. Entomol.1033557562

  • United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Services (USDA NASS)2017Noncitrus fruits and nuts 2016 summary. 15 Sept. 2017. <https://www.nass.usda.gov/>.

  • VorsaN.1996On a wing: The genetics and taxonomy of Vaccinium species from a pollination perspectiveActa Hort.44675966

  • Washington State University (WSU) AgWeatherNet2017AgWeatherNet. 16 Nov. 2017. <http://weather.wsu.edu/>.

  • Western Regional Climate Center2017Average number of cloudy days. 21 Oct. 2017. <https://wrcc.dri.edu/htmlfiles/westcomp.ovc.html>.

  • WhiteE.ClarkeJ.H.1939Some results of self-pollination of the highbush blueberry at Whitesbog, NJProc. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci.36305309

  • WickhamH.2009‘ggplot2’: Elegant graphics for data analysis. Springer New York NY

Article Information

Google Scholar

Related Content

Article Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 136 136 20
Full Text Views 112 112 11
PDF Downloads 21 21 2