Interesting that I was reading up on raising honey bees to
discover this Summer that tomatillos (the goal of my endeavors)
are almost completely ignored by honey bees. They may interrogate
for a short time, but they invariably end up ignoring these
flowers. Bumble bees, on the other hand, showed highly selective
exploratory behaviour for these flowers. They made very frequent
visits to these flowers that resulted in actual time spent in
the flower. These flowers yielded excellent fruit. Another
group of plants without access to bumble bees but extensive
access to honey bees yielded no fruit whatsoever.
I conclude that tomatillos flowers are not interesting to honey
bees. They will favor essentially any other flower in the area.
Thus, no point in bothering with trying to get some honey bee
I then looked a bit on the net and it seems there is a hugely
disproportionate amount of info about raising bumble bees. I am
curious, do farmers who raise such plants make any special
provisions to raise bumble bees? Anyone know any good literature
on how best to get a colony going in close proximity to my
plants? Info regarding honey bees is not applicable for the
case of bumble bees.
For the life of me can't understand why anyone would want to encourage
bumble bees near your plantings. Clearly you have had little experience in
defending yourself from those beasts. I had to rush my son to the emergency
room when he was 5 after stumbling into a nest of bumble bees, and I've been
stung also. He was rewarded with 5 stings to the top of his head at once.
Bumble bees are fiercely territorial, at least the ones here in Texas are. I
encourage you to simply hand pollinate your tomatillos....or buy them at the
supermarket. I can do with more honey bees and fewer bumble bees.
Bumble bees around here are faily docile - they nest in the ground and
don't bother anyone. I work around them all day long in my garden and
have never had a problem with them. They're good pollinators.
Thomas, your comments, while negative, are nonetheless very welcome. Here
in Sweden, all the bees, including bumble bees, are comparatively very
tame. I do not know about the pollination quality in tame versus
aggressive bumble bees, but it is well-described in the literature
that the more aggressive honey bees are also the most productive.
That remark is generally made as a rule of thumb, so maybe some
exceptions exist. It seems that high bioproductivity runs somewhat
contrary to human safety. Again, bumble bees have thus far proven to
be the most effective pollinators of tomatillos and this has been
checked throughout the day-night cycle with mid to late afternoon
having the highest number of visitations. Other bees and some flies
only displayed short-lived exploratory behaviour without ever closely
approaching or landing in the flowers. These other insects failed to
return, focusing on other plants in the area. By comparison, Bumble bees
congregated at the tomatillos and spent a great deal of time working
the flowers. It was not uncommon to find more than 2 bumble bees on
Hand pollination in my experience, on the other hand, is highly
inefficient (please note the number of bumble bees working these
plants and the great amount of time). I tried despite several earlier
warnings from those with experience that hand pollination would not
work well. I tried different tricks with different brushes with very
poor success (e.g., incomplete fertilization giving lopsided fruit,
small and few fruit, etc). I have not tried the commercial electric bee
yet, but would gladly accept advice on a particular device that is
known to work well with tomatillo or tomato flowers. I do some
electronics for a hobby, so if someone has a suggested frequency and
amplitude for mimicking bumble bees, that would be great.
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