Many of the fruits grown in Minnesota are excellent sources of food for pollinators. Trees, shrubs and brambles, like raspberries, can provide hundreds to thousands of flowers for these important insects to forage on. As our fruit trees, shrubs and patches begin to flower, the gardens literally “buzz” with activity. This year I hope to focus more attention to adding new varieties of apples to our developing orchard, and possibly pears or cherries. Many fruiting trees and shrubs require cross pollination from another type of that same plant. So far there are 4 varieties of crabapple trees, and 4 varieties of apple trees contributing to pollinating each other in the orchard. This past year I added artic kiwi, sour cherries, and I have increased the number of grape vines that are growing.
Having multiple varieties of apples along with blueberries, and a newer fruit to our area, honeyberries, is one way I can ensure good fruit production, but this also requires good pollination work by the bees. Something that came to my attention while working on increasing pollinator habitat was that our native bees like bumble bees, mason bees, and squash bees are incredibly important for pollinating plants in our area. These bees have evolved with these particular plants and they can do the job much more effectively compared to honey bees. Honey bees however make up for that effectiveness by sheer numbers. There was certainly no mistaking that once I became a beekeeper, our fruit production increased. This also means I added a tremendous amount of competition to our native bee population. After realizing that, I pledged to continue to add multiple sources of pollen and nectar to our property. Falling in love with beekeeping, I didn’t want to quit though I knew this competition could be detrimental to the native populations. One way to help all the bees, is to increase their forage, and so the quest continues. Many fruits are available to grow here, some more difficult than others. That being said, many fruit varieties add numerous forage sources for lots of pollinators so adding them to your landscape is a win win for all.
Thanks to evolution, some spectacular relationships between plants and insects have developed, and it turns out flowers need bees just as much as bees need flowers. Some flowers of plants are considered open access, while others are restricted access. Research recently revealed that our native bumble bees are necessary to pollinate some of these restricted access flowers, as they are one of a very few bees that can get into these flowers. Bumble bees are big, as I’m sure you can relate to. Having a big bumble come flying by your face will certainly grab anyone’s attention, even if only momentarily. They are big, and strong. They have the strength to open up these flowers to access their pollen. Not only that but these bumble bees use their bigger flight muscles to vibrate or “buzz” while working flowers. This causes stickier pollen like that of blueberry bushes and tomatoes, to fall from the stamen so it is easier collected by the bee. This action has been named buzz pollination thanks to our wonderful bumble bees.