Updated: Jun 3, 2022
Why is honey bee pollination so important?
Much of our diet relies on crops being pollinated properly. At Humble Bee our managed and targeted pollination services, help improve crop yields and increase productivity.
Managed honey bees are the most efficient means to ensure successful pollination of a wide range of crops, including: top fruits, soft fruits, oilseed rape (OSR), field beans and borage.
Humble Bee pollination services on oil seed rape.
In early spring, when they are most needed, natural pollinators such as bumblebees and solitary bees are few in number. By comparison, honey bee colonies coming out of the winter will contain 30,000 bees – a much larger pollination force that can be strategically placed near crops. Colonies can also forage at other cool times of the year when other bees are inactive.
Solitary bee on cold spring day.
Are Pollination services available in the UK?
Hiring honey bee colonies to pollinate crops is a common practice in the US, the almond pollination business takes the majority of the bees to one state, in comparison it is relatively rare in the UK. At Humble Bee we aim to change that, we are keen for farmers to benefit from these incredible little pollinators. Send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org to book our pollination services.
What are the numbers?
OILSEED RAPE (OSR)
Research shows an improvement in seed yield of 15-20 per cent with the introduction of two honey bee colonies per hectare.
Honeybees pollinating OSR
There is also the benefit of uniform, early pod set with a shorter flowering period (by nearly four days) which could benefit disease control. If oilseed rape is grown for seed, germination success is increased from 83 per cent to 96 per cent through the presence of bees. Oil content is also increased by around four per cent.
More pods set on the lower trusses of field beans and yield can be increased by 1380 kg/ha with the introduction of managed honey bee colonies.
Honey bee in mid flight
A high level of pollination is essential for borage to produce maximum yields. The flower heads of borage plants open for one day only. Therefore, it is crucial to get honey bee colonies to the crop just before flowering begins. Trials in New Zealand showed 20 per cent increase in yield when bees were introduced to the crop.
Honey bee collecting nectar from borage flower in New Zealand
TOP FRUITS AND SOFT FRUITS
Both top fruits and soft fruits benefit from managed pollination. Quality is far superior; seed content is high which makes for better shaped fruit and higher yields. The calcium content in apples is increased with insect pollination, giving the fruit a longer storage life.
Honey bee pollinates strawberry flower
Honey bees can be used in a polytunnel or greenhouse environment for soft fruits. Yields can be increased by 30 per cent and fruit size can increase by ten per cent. The proportion of misshapen fruit is also reduced significantly with clear benefits to producers.
What makes bees such awesome pollinators?
If you look really closely at a honey bee, you’ll see how perfect her anatomy is for the job. Hairs covering the legs and body that catch and hold grains of pollen, so if she brushes against the stigma of another flower she visits, cross-pollination is done.
Honey bee under a microscope showing fine pollen collecting hairs
As long as they’re blooming, the honeybee tends to forage on a consistent the kind of flower, which is particularly effective.
Honey bee covered in pollen
Being able to put a colony in a garden makes the honey bee one of the few pollinating insects that you can choose to be present – guaranteeing good pollination. You can’t exactly do the same with other species.
Unlike other species that lay dormant all winter and only come out in small numbers in spring while the population of the species is being rebuilt, the honey bees work differently.
Over the winter, they are feeding on stored honey and the queen starts to lay eggs at the beginning of the year, making the number of bees in the hive grow even greater. It’s because of this system and rhythm, that when the flowers start to bloom, the bees are ready to do their pollination duties – there’s no holding them back!
Honey bees clustering during cold winter months
Why are bees so important to our food supply?
Around 60% of the fruit and vegetables we eat need honey bee pollination. To put it another way, one mouthful of food in every three that we eat comes from plants pollinated by bees. That certainly helps to put the importance of these amazing creatures into perspective! Without bees our food supply and economy would be in danger.
Inspired to keep bees?
Get in touch with us if you have any questions, we’re keen to help new Beekeepers. Alternatively buy your bees here.
Humble Bee brood pattern