Blueberry pollination season: Top 10 things to do now for optimal pollination

Blueberry bloom is coming fast and now is the time to review blueberry pollination.

The recent, warm weather and predicted scorching May conditions (86 degrees predicted in Grand Junction, Michigan on Thursday, May 7) predict a super-fast start to bloom this year. It is time again to review blueberry pollination by reading “Invest in pollination for success with highbush blueberries” by Michigan State University Extension. Here are 10 top important take-home messages from the article.

  1. Blueberry pollen is moved by bees, not wind, so high numbers of bees are needed to set a blueberry crop.
  2. Cultivars vary in their benefit from getting cross pollen versus self-pollen, so field design and stocking should take account of this.
  3. Honey bees, bumble bees and wild bees contribute to pollination.
  4. Flowers are receptive to pollen for just a few days. In the hot weather their receptive period is likely to be shorter.
  5. Stocking recommendations vary by cultivar from lowest (Rubel at 0.5 hives per acre) to highest (Jersey at 2.5 hives per acre), so adjust by cultivar.
  6. Stock with more bees for higher yielding fields and to increase the chance of full pollination.
  7. Bumble bee colonies can complement honey bees to improve pollination.
  8. Wild bees provide significant pollination in some settings, and can perform when honey bees don’t.
  9. Conserve wild bees by setting aside some farm habitat for their nesting and food after blueberry bloom.
  10. Minimize pesticide risk to bees by avoiding spraying and bee toxic pesticides during bloom, or apply only late in the day, and follow the label restrictions.

The weather will cool down next week, so if the rain holds off we can hope for a good pollination season to bring large berries in July and August.

Dr. Isaacs’ work is funded in part by MSU’s AgBioResearch.

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