December 11 2013 Latest news:
Friday, August 16, 2013
Fruit farmer Tim Place has seen swarms and swarms of bumblebees on his raspberries this summer.
The bees are definitely the farmers’ friend as they pollinate about 100 acres of raspberries at Church Farm, Tunstead.
“I’ve never seen quite so many bumblebees as this year. It has been quite extraordinary and I don’t think it is anything special that we’ve done,” he told about 25 members of Holt & District Farmers’ Club on a visit last month.
“We rely on natural pollinator for the raspberries,” said his farm manager, John Blazey. However, they also like neighbouring crops of oilseed rape, he added.
Place UK, which is one of the country’s largest growers of strawberries and raspberries, supplies retailers from early May to early November. Sequential flowering is the key to maintain this flow of produce.
And it is ideal for “wild” bumblebees. “As the raspberries start to flower from about mid-May, that’s when the bumblebees arrive and usually in droves,” said Mr Blazey, who has 50 hives of conventional honey bees to help with pollination.
“They like raspberries because there is a lot of nectar in the flowers. That’s why you don’t have to do too much to encourage them. They’ll find their own way in,” he added.
“On a really bright day they’re like a really black cloud. One morning at 7am when the sun had broken through, it was warming the end of the tunnels. All the bumbles were resting on the wooden support posts at the end basking in the sun and warming up before they went to work,” said Mr Blazey.
“It is quite nice to see all the bumblebees because without them, we wouldn’t have a crop,” said Mr Place.