Researchers seek to boost bumblebee forage, blueberry yields

01/08/2013 04:14:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

Oregon State University entomologist sujaya raoCourtesy Oregon State UniversityOregon State University entomologist Sujaya Rao checks bumblebee pollination in screen houses.Oregon State University researchers want to see if increasing foraging habitat for native bumblebees will in turn increase their pollination of nearby blueberry fields.

Blueberries bloom for only a few weeks. If alternative blossoms aren't available once the crop is finished blooming, bumblebees will move onto better food sources, according to a news release.

"It's very important to give native pollinators a reason to hang around blueberries," Sujaya Rao, an OSU entomologist working on the project, said in the release. "Just one fruit crop with three or four weeks of bloom is not enough to sustain a bumblebee colony."

She is seeking blueberry growers in the Willamette Valley to participate in a study of alternate food sources.

The growers would be asked to plant native or exotic plants, such as rosemary, germander, California lilac, sage and red clover, to attract bees.

Researchers would then estimate the number of native bees in the fields with and without hedgerows compared with blueberry yields.

The research is part of a five-year project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and led by Michigan State University to address challenges faced by specialty crop growers.

Because bees are essential to blueberry production, Oregon producers typically rent hives for their fields at a price of about $100 per acre.

Unlike bumblebees, honeybees won't fly when it's cold, which is often the case in the Willamette Valley.

Bumblebees also perform what is known as buzz pollination, which occurs when the bees' vibration releases pollen from anthers of certain flowers.

Comments (4) Leave a comment 

e-Mail (required)


characters left

Don sturm    
Corbe Oregon  |  February, 27, 2013 at 10:55 PM

Interested already have native pollinator habitate established interested in more

kathiann brown    
milwaukie, OR  |  April, 19, 2013 at 03:18 PM

My husband and I just moved into a retirement home that has a vegetable/fruit community garden (next door to another such residence which also has a residents' garden). I'm interested in hearing more about this experiment with the aim of proposing it to our group for their consideration.

Vicky Boyd, Editor    
California  |  April, 19, 2013 at 03:26 PM

You may wish to contact Sujaya Rao, at Oregon State University, (541) 737-9038. He's leading the research effort.

Vicky Boyd, Editor    
California  |  April, 19, 2013 at 03:29 PM

You may wish to contact Sujaya Rao, at Oregon State University, (541) 737-9038. He's leading the research efforts.

Feedback Form
Leads to Insight