March 2019 - 14

Best honeybee pollination in pickling cucumbers
By Thomas Wood, Meghan Milbrath and
Zsofia Szendrei
Michigan State University
Seeded pickling cucumbers require
pollination to set fruit. A female flower
needs 8-12 pollinator visits in a single
day in order to produce marketable
fruit. Because individual cucumber
flowers are open only for a single day,
the more bees you have in the field, the
greater the chance of successful fruit
set. Cucumber flowers are not very
attractive to native bees, so honeybees
are the most important pollinator in
commercial pickling cucumber fields,
accounting for 98 percent of bee visits
to cucumber flowers.
Honeybees visit flowers for two
reasons: pollen for protein, and nectar
for carbohydrates. They use different
flowers for different resources.
Cucumber flowers are mainly used for
nectar. As the bees visit the flowers
collecting nectar, they transfer pollen
from flower to flower providing
pollination. Only the oldest bees
forage, so a colony has to be large and
healthy to have enough workers to
perform pollination.
Foragers will travel miles to find
pollen, nectar, and water. Every
short distances, and remain in the
original flight range, foragers may use
old landmarks and return to the initial
(now hiveless) location. Losing foragers
is not good. Since only certain bees in
the hive forage (and provide pollination
while foraging), moving hives may mean
that you lose all of the bees you need to
pollinate your cucumbers!
Michigan State University researchers
investigated the effects of moving colonies
on bee health and crop yield.
Impact on honeybee colonies.
Honeybee worker visiting a female cucumber flower. Photos: Michigan State University
morning they leave the hive, returning
to the same hive at the end of the day.
Honeybee workers scout to learn the
layout of the surrounding landscape,
and will quickly find new areas of mass
flowering crops such as cucumbers.
When they find a large patch of food,
they will communicate its location to
other foragers. They remember these
locations and return to a site day
after day, as long as it is producing
food. This efficient system saves them
time - as long as they are in the same
location, they can efficiently visit large
patches of food, without spending time
scouting and orienting.
Placing honeybee hives
During cucumber pollination,
honeybee hives are either left along a field
edge for the summer, or kept on wagons
and moved between smaller plantings.
Moving is stressful for bees and can
affect their ability to pollinate your
crop, especially if done during the day.
If hives are moved when the foragers
are out, they will not find the new
colony location. When hives are moved
We compared growth of stationary
honeybee colonies to colonies on
wagons on multiple cucumber fields in
eastern Michigan. All the colonies grew
throughout the season but growth was
greater in stationary colonies. After eight
weeks, stationary colonies grew by 43
percent, while colonies on wagons grew
only 19 percent. This difference in relative
colony growth is substantial. Compared
to moved colonies, the stationary colonies
contained 20 percent more bees, almost
the equivalent of an additional hive.
Smaller colonies with fewer workers not
only means fewer bees available to visit
cucumber flowers, but it also means more
work and expense for your beekeepers,
which may lead to higher rental prices.
Impact on cucumber yield. During
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For more information contact a sales representative in your area today!
Terry Parrish
Daniel Poppell
Southwest FL
Larry Pippin
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Robbie Bishop
Southeast FL
Tyler Raulerson
Southwest GA
Mark Upton
NY, N.England, OH, MI
Brianna Fedorkowicz
T: 800-231-9359 | F: 910-267-2692 | PO BOX 206 Faison, NC 28341 |
Wayne Eidson
14 |
Jonathan Wilks

March 2019

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