Pollinators in the orchard
In recent years, the introduction of hives to the orchard has been gaining more and more popularity. Often these are not hives with a honey bee, but with a solitary bee - garden mason.
What prompts fruit growers to introduce pollinators to plantations?
Agriculture has changed a lot in recent years. Due to widespread chemical treatment, increasing monoculture areas, and the lack of natural habitats, the number of wild pollinators has decreased significantly. The number of orchards and plantations 20-30 years ago was incomparably smaller than in the present years. It should be remembered that all the most important orchard species cultivated in Poland are insect-pollinated. It is the work of insects that determines the quantity and quality of crops obtained by fruit growers. Increasing globalization, the embargo on the Russian market, and competition between individual countries for international markets mean that more and more attention is paid to quality. All this means that many fruit growers decided to introduce hives to the orchard in order to be able to produce fruit
with the highest parameters. Among the growers there was a belief that in China flowers are pollinated by people with brushes. In Poland, this is not possible due to the increasing deficit of the labor force and, consequently, more and more expensive work. A prototype of a robot bee has already been created, but we know perfectly well that nothing can replace insects.
Influence of pollinators on the quantity and quality of the obtained crops
Most fruit and vegetables eaten by humans require bees for pollination. It is estimated that in apple trees only slightly more than 3% of flowers are pollinated with the share of bees, while with pollinating insects this value increases to even 20% - on average it is 13%. It follows that, thanks to insects, apple yields can increase up to 4 times. It is not without significance
that well-pollinated flowers appear larger, more even and with better storage capacity. It is the number of seeds in the fruit that determines whether the fruit will be even and how long it can be stored without losing its firmness. Consumers demand better and better quality and availability of fruit over a long period of time. In the case of berries, pollinators are most often used
they are found in dessert fruit plantations, e.g. blueberry, currant or strawberry. The more times a flower is visited by insects, the more seeds it has, which makes it larger. In the case of strawberries, the amount of fruit from pollinated and non-pollinated plantations is the same. The yields, on the other hand, can be 30% higher because the fruit from the pollinated plantation is more even and larger. It is not without significance that the costs of harvesting larger fruits are lower. It is estimated that in Europe alone, the value of the pollination of crops is about 23 billion Euro. Conscious fruit growers know that only the highest quality fruit can be sold at a decent price. That's why they put the hives in the orchard. More and more often hives can also be seen in stone orchards
ie cherry, plum or cherry.
Pollinating insects, but what kind?
The most famous of all pollinating insects are honeybees. Their advantage over other pollinators is related to the number of bees available in spring. On average, in one hive in spring there are several thousand worker bees, which can fly around the flowers. The biggest disadvantage for fruit growers is the very high labor intensity associated with keeping honey bees on their own farm. Running a professional orchard farm, he has no time to fight
with varroosis, collect honey, watch the rivet, make frames, sink snakes, etc. You can invite a beekeeper to cooperate and put his hives in the orchard. Often the problem is that oilseed rape blooms at a similar time to orchard crops. It is a very honey-bearing crop, so beekeepers prefer to place their hives instead of in the orchard for rape cultivation. Beekeepers are also afraid of the poisoning of bees, perhaps not by the host to which they are inserting, but by his neighbors whose orchards border him.
Bumblebees are very popular in protected crops. The consumer forced the introduction of pollinators for growing tomatoes under cover. After chemical pollination, the tomato fruit had a green seed chamber. It was not attractive, so it was decided to introduce bumblebees under cover. The fruit growers who grow the American blueberry decide to buy a bumblebee. It happens that after the purchase of bumblebee families, they do not want to fly around the crops as much as if the growers expected it. This behavior of the bumblebee is not dictated by the fact that they are lazy but probably have a large amount of pollen and sugar syrup in the hive. Bumblebees are very good pollinators in adverse weather conditions. Their most important disadvantage is that you have to buy them every year.
Every year, garden masonry is gaining more and more popularity among fruit growers. Why is this happening? Growers appreciate this insect for several of its features. First of all, it is a very hardworking insect that works 10 times faster than a honeybee. Moreover, this bee pollinates all fruit species grown in Poland. Contrary to the honey bee and bumblebee, it does not form colonies, so it is practically non-aggressive - it does not defend the nest. Thanks to this, even people allergic to insect venom can stay in its vicinity without fear. It seems that the most important feature of this species is the fact that garden masonry can be easily grown on your own farm, increasing colonies. The bricklayer does not communicate with each other, therefore it evenly penetrates the environment around its nest. Although it can fly up to 300 m from the hive, most often it is a distance of several dozen meters.
Garden bricklayer - breeding
The breeding of red masonry is relatively simple. This bee requires three things to live
ie nesting sites, pollen and clay. In the traditional way, garden masonry is grown in reed shoots. Reed sections cut into 15-20 cm, ended with a knee, are tied into bunches and protected against moisture. About 2 weeks before flowering, the mason's cocoons are placed in a previously prepared hive. The males are the first to bite out of the cocoons, and after a few days the females. It is the female sex that effectively pollinates the orchards because it collects pollen for the next generation. The female lays an egg on the pollen and builds a partition out of clay. The hatching chambers are positioned linearly one after the other. An important factor in determining the sex of the next generation is the size of the hole in which the pollen and egg are laid. For garden masonry, the most optimal size is an opening from 7mm to 9mm. The most important element of masonry breeding is the annual removal of cocoons and their segregation. It should be remembered that this is our native bee, which has its natural enemies. In nature, this bee does not nest in one place, but is dispersed in the environment. Therefore, it is difficult to find this bee by parasites. If we want to use solitary bees to pollinate our crops, we place hives in the orchard, encouraging them to establish nests in one place.
Nest material for garden masonry
In addition to the undoubted advantages of breeding masonry in reeds, this nest material also has its drawbacks. The reeds must be torn apart to remove the cocoons from the inside, so it is a disposable material. If we do not have reeds of adequate thickness in the area, we have to buy them every year. Its cost ranges from PLN 80 to PLN 100 for 1000 cut reeds. If, on the other hand, such a reed is available, it requires a grower of work and often fuel to drive, cut the reeds and then cut them into appropriate sections. The very removal of the bee cocoons from the reeds also requires quite a lot of work. It takes 8 to 12 hours of work to remove the cocoons from 1000 reed tubes. If we start our adventure with this bee and have a small amount of it, working with it is not too burdensome. Summing up the annual cost of maintaining a red mason bee for about 1 ha of an apple orchard in reeds, counting his own work, is about PLN 250. There are also artificial nesting materials on the market that facilitate the work related to the annual removal of cocoons. Unfortunately, all existing solutions have their drawbacks. The inability to ventilate inside the nesting hole may cause pollen or cocoons to mold to mold. Moreover, such systems should be serviced by oneself, which often translates into breeding errors (lack of knowledge on how to select and disinfect cocoons). In the crowds of work, fruit growers often give up the service, which over a period of several years can lead to parasitization of the entire bee colony.
A frequent problem turns out to be the lack of knowledge about the optimal distribution of bees in the orchard and the amount that should be placed on a given crop.
All these problems were answered by Osmia Future Sp. z o. o .. After several years of testing, it introduces the OsmiaBox specialist hives supported by a mobile application and a service device to ensure the dustiness of crops for the 21st century. The Osmia 4.0 project is to answer all the needs related to pollination and the cultivation of masonry.
The mobile application is completely free for users and with its help you can easily plan the number of hives and their arrangement in the orchard for optimal pollination. It is a tool that professional fruit growers are waiting for. The application will tell you when and what to do, it will adjust the pollination to the individual conditions in the orchard of each user. After the service, he will verify the data and perform dust optimization on an annual basis.
The service device will perform all the activities to prepare the cocoons and hives for the next season. The service will be performed both at the company's premises and at the customer's site thanks to the mobility of the device. Each process during the service will be recorded and the customer will receive all the necessary information.
A new chapter in crop pollination begins.
MSc Eng. Przemysław Kapka