We highly recommend using bumblebees for the pollination of your blueberries, they are by far the most efficient pollinators of this crop!
The Biology of Blueberries
Highbush and rabbiteye blueberries are commonly grown in New Zealand, while the ground-covering lowbush type is not.
Highbush varieties are largely self-fertile, whereas almost all rabbiteye varieties are self-sterile, requiring cross-pollination. Increased pollination improves fruit set, increases berry size, and speeds ripening (which is important for the lucrative early market). It has been estimated that 60-80% of flowers must set to achieve a commercially viable crop.
Blueberries benefit significantly from bumblebee buzz-pollination. The flower petals join to form a corolla tube that hangs downwards. Pollen is produced inside the anther (♂), and must be released through a pollen pore at the very end. The style (♀) extends far below the anthers, and is receptive only at the stigma (♀). Pollen is released from the anther by vibration, which can be caused by wind, but is more readily caused by the buzzing technique employed by bumblebees. The pollen collects on the bumblebee body, and is transferred to the stigma of the next flowers visited.
Blueberries gain significantly from buzz-pollination, and are generally the prefered pollinator! Bumblebees are also more active than honeybees during the cool, potentially damp flowering period of blueberries, and will spend more of the day foraging than honeybees, who will generally stay in the hive until conditions are more favourable. The high mobility of bumblebees within crops assists with cross-pollination between varieties.
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