Bumbles and Blueberries
by Sujaya Rao and W. P. Stephen, Crop and Soil Science Department, Oregon State University

Pollination is critical for production of large, good quality and earlier ripening blueberries. Native bees, especially bumble bees, are considered to be excellent pollinators of blueberries as, unlike honey bees, they forage in the cool temperatures that prevail during blueberry bloom in the Willamette Valley and they remove blueberry pollen efficiently through buzz pollination.

Research at Oregon State University (OSU) has documented that an abundance of bumble bees belonging to seven species forage on blueberry flowers and likely contribute to the high yields obtained in the Willamette Valley. However, climatic conditions, which vary from year to year, affect bumble bee colony development and foraging behavior, both of which could in turn affect blueberry pollination and berry yield. In addition, due to their long life cycle, bumble bees are dependent on crops besides blueberries for colony development. Bumble bee queens emerge from hibernation in spring and forage on blueberries and other spring blooming crops prior to initiating nests. Subsequently, workers forage in late spring and summer and colonies increase in size prior to the production of males and new queens that mate before the mated queens go into hibernation.

Thus, for availability of bumble bees for pollination the following year, blueberry crops must provide sufficient foraging resources early in the season to ensure that queens have adequate resources to initiate nests while alternative resources are required in the landscape for sustenance of colonies through the rest of the year.

In other regions in the U.S. blueberry growers can purchase commercial bumble bees to augment native populations for blueberry pollination but this is not permitted in Oregon as commercial bumble bees are not native. OSU researchers are working with beekeepers for production of West Coast bumble bee species that will be available for blueberry pollination. Meanwhile, blueberry growers can facilitate bumble bee conservation by planting bee-pollinated flowering plants that bloom either before or after blueberry bloom in their orchards.


Message from the Chairman

Spotted Wing Drosophila Update

Market Outlook:
A Look Back …
and Ahead

Bumbles and Blueberries

Organic Blueberry Production Research Project

Critical Program Needs Industry Support

Small Growers to Receive GAP Certification Aid

Oregon Fresh Season Promotion On a Roll for 2011

Bee Fees Jump a Bit

Smooth Move Increases Insulin Sensitivity

New Trap Hits
the Spots
(Spotted Wing Drosophila)

OSU Researcher Driving Blueberries up a Tree

USHBC Unveils New “Little Blue Dynamos” Positioning and Campaign for Highbush Blueberries

Watching World Acreage and
Production Grow

Specialty Crop Grant Supports Oregon Berry Festival;
Free Berry Vendor Space Available


Oregon Blueberry Commission • P.O. Box 3366 • Salem, Oregon 97302
Paid for by the Oregon Blueberry Commission, an agency of the State of Oregon.