Bumblebees Working Hard in Hastings

It takes a lot of hard work, passion and knowledge to get the best tasting produce in Wattie’s Black Doris Plums.  But it’s also thanks to the humble bumblebee who work hard to pollinate the plum trees on Mike and Julie Russell’s orchard in Hastings, and six other properties where these trials are now in the third year of a six year pan industry project managed by Plant and Food Research in Ruakura.

What is Pollination?

Pollination is when pollen is moved from one flower to another to produce seeds.  It’s a critical part of the process to ensure quality fruiting. Black Doris flower very early in spring often when it is still cold and wet when the honey bee is much less effective.

As enthusiastic innovators in this field Heinz Wattie’s led the way undertaking a trial to investigate the outcome of bumblebees pollinating Black Doris Plums in the 2011/2012 growing season.

The results showed a substantial benefit of using bumblebees and has led to new pollination options initiated by Heinz Wattie’s in partnership with the Russell’s and others.  Today Mike and Julie Russell (proud NZ growers) continue to use bumblebees to pollinate their Black Doris Plum trees enabling Kiwis to enjoy these delicious plums all year around.

Did you know?

  • Bumblebees are large and clumsy and visit lots of flowers, ideal as they collect lots of pollen because they cannot avoid it catching on their big hairy bodies.
  • Black Doris flowers have little nectar and are unattractive to honeybees.
  • Bumblebees will work in cooler temperatures ideal for Black Doris Plums when full bloom is typically early September, sometimes temperatures as much as 5˚C cooler.
  • Bumblebees tend to stay close to their “nests” perhaps only travelling 200-300 metres, where honey bees travel kilometres looking for attractive food sources.