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Staging area for honey bee splits
We have purchased bees from a local commercial beekeeper, since 1997 to pollinate our orchard. The side benefit of purchasing the bees is honey and we are better served to have the bees to move around the orchard freely. Honey bees though must be set in the location you intend to pollinate Honey bees do travel from the hive to find their pollen to feed the growing colony of new bees, yet the need for viable pollen is needed by the apple trees and the trees are better served if the hives are located with the radius of at least 10 feet up to 1500’ feet to the hive. We have had very good pollination when the hives have been located within this range.

The farther away the hive is in distance the less viable the pollen can be. There are two different type of honey bees that pollinate the flowers. The top workers and the side workers. The top workers lay over the top of flower and where as the side workers work around the edges of the pistils.

Honey bee hives ready to set out in the
orchard for apple pollination
The more bees you have in a hive the better and the hive should have at least 5-6 strong frames of brood and a full box of 9 frames of bees. We have received this amount for the last 4 years from our beekeeper and he has been very helpful and very gracious in providing what we are looking for in pollinating our apple trees. My suggestion for others is to become involved in beekeeping versus just renting the bees. When you become involved in the process the benefits accumulated are dispensed to those who seek the answers.

Other pollinators have been used as an experiment and the following is what was experienced.

In 2007 we used commercial bumble bees in a Quad system to pollinate the orchard. This did not work out for us due to the jostling of the bees during shipment and timing of the bloom with setting of bees out in orchard was off.

Pollination of apples, with supers on
hives for honey collection
We have also tried Blue orchard Mason bees in 1996 and the timing and the hardiness of the bee was not correct for this zone of 3-4.

Leaf cutter bees also were taken a look at for pollinating in 1996, but they were too late and are only available during alfalfa season. Other pollinator bees have been noticed during bloom.

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