Bio-Bee at Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, mass-produces the earth bumblebee, Bombus terrestris, for natural pollination of various crops. In greenhouse production, tomato is the major crop pollinated by bumblebees, as well as sweet pepper, eggplant, strawberry, melon and courgette. Outdoor fruit crops such as apple, pear, cherry, plum, blueberry and avocado are also successfully pollinated by bumblebees.
Why bumblebee and not honeybee?
The bumblebee, a large insect (2-4 cmin length), covered with black hair, with two wide yellow horizontal stripes and a white abdomen tip, has three distinctive advantages which make it superior to other pollinators including the honeybee:
- Unlike the honeybee, the bumblebee is capable of vibrating the flower using the unique “buzz pollination” mechanism at which it specializes. The greenhouse tomato flower needs this vibration and is thus pollinated in the optimal way by the bumblebee. The vibration mechanism by the bumblebee is superior to any other manual alternative, such as: “electric bee”, pulsed air and hormones. In other words, nature pollinates better than any artificial means.
- The bumblebee is less affected by adverse weather conditions as compared to the honeybee. Thus under conditions of rain, increased cloudiness or at temperatures below 10ºC, the honeybee stays inside the hive, whereas the activity of the bumblebee is not affected.
- Unlike the honeybee, the bumblebee is better adapted to perform under confined greenhouse conditions. The bumblebee is less inclined to look for alternative sources of pollen and nectar outside the greenhouse. Therefore, it will stay in the greenhouse even if the latter is opened for ventilation purposes.
The bumblebee is an ideal pollinator for greenhouse conditions, and for outdoor crops during marginal seasons!