Bumblebees are an ideal pollinator for protected crops and equally successful at pollinating a number of outdoor crops.
Greenhouse tomato and capsicums is our major indoor crop.
In addition bumblebees successfully pollinate greenhouse/covered strawberries, courgettes and cucumbers. As well as a number of seeded crops.
They are also becoming more appreciated for their effective and successful pollination of outdoor crops such as avocadoes, blueberries, kiwifruit, passion fruit, cherries and plums.
In terms of their strong natural pollination qualities, bumblebees and honeybees complement each other well. The main difference with honeybees is the bumbles also fly in poorer weather conditions. They will work earlier in the day, at lower temperature, and in light rain and wind. Bumbles also fly better in conditions with poor light (for example under hail netting) and they fly around your crop in a more criss-cross fashion.
Yes, bumblebees and honeybees can work in combination with each other. However caution should be taken to monitor that the honeybees are not raiding the bumblebee hive for its sugar syrup. If honeybees begin raiding the hives, the health and longevity of the hives can be jeopardized. When using both honeybees and bumblebees we recommend that they be kept at least 50-100 meters from each other. It is advised to introduce the honeybees somewhat later, after at least 5% of the flowers start blossoming.
We have different hives to suit your needs;
Home Garden Hive (around 60 worker bees) – small outdoor hive, suitable for the home gardener/orchardist, or lifestyle block.
Outdoor Hive (80-100 worker bees) – large hive suitable for outdoor use in commercial crops or orchids.
Greenhouse/Indoor Hive – these come in 3 different sizes depending on the size of the area requiring pollination.
Large Hive – between 1100sqm and 1500sqm (contains 80-100 worker bees)
Medium Hive – between 750sqm and 100sqm (contains 50-70 worker bees)
Small Hive – less than 750sqm (contains around 50 worker bees)
As a general guide we suggest the following for greenhouse/indoor use;
- Less than 750sqm - 1x small hive.
- 750sqm to 1100sqm - 1x medium hive.
- 1100 to 1500sqm - 1x large hive.
Hives for outdoors use can vary depending on the crop.
- Avocados – 6-7 large hives per hectare or 3-4 per hectare if used in combination with honeybees.
- Kiwifruit – minimum 9 large hives per hectare or 2-3 if used in combination with honeybees.
- Blueberries (covered/cloaked crops) – 6-9 hives per hectare.
- Strawberries (outdoor) – minimum 6x large hives per hectare if no other pollinators are present.
Please contact Zonda if you are unsure about your requirements.
Each hive is guaranteed to last for between 4-6 weeks. The hive will naturally die off at this stage. A new hive would need to be introduced if the crop is still flowering. Home garden hives can usually last much longer depending on the food source available.
Before the hive dies off the original Queen will lay several new queens. Once the original hive dies, the new queens will not re-establish themselves in the same hive. These new queens will leave the hive and look for somewhere close by to establish a new hive.
Greenhouse/Indoor Crops – introduce hives when the crop is near 5-10% bloom.
Outdoor Crops – introduce bumblebees 4-7 days before flowering begins.
Home Garden Hive – can be introduced at any stage into a flowering garden/orchid.
The production of bumblebees (from queen to colony) takes at least several months. For large orders, it is advised to contact Zonda 12 to 14 weeks in advance to guarantee the delivery. In general, smaller orders can be supplied within a few days.
Our bumblebees are ‘Bombus terrestris’, meaning earth bumblebee.
The hive contains the founder Queen, a number of worker bees (depending on the hive size), a structure of eggs, larvae and pupae. The hive also comes complete with a bladder of sugar syrup; this will sustain the bees for the life of the hive.
Bumblebee hives are sold as a single hive. The have recyclable plastic hive components, and an outer cardboard box. They are approximately 300mmx 300mm.
Greenhouse/Indoor Hives - Hives are best placed at the ends of rows, or along central pathways. They should be placed on a stand or box to keep the hive off the ground. Do no place hive near a vent intake or a CO2 pipe, or any place where it may get wet. In summer, provide shade for the hive, especially if the crop is still very small. A piece of polystyrene cut about 20cm larger than the hive all around is suitable. You may need a stone or similar object to hold the polystyrene on. If ants are a problem, place the hive in a shallow water tray, or if the hive is on a support on a greenhouse pole, use some grease or similar material in a bank around the pole above and below the hive.
Outdoor Hives – Hives can be placed at the end of rows or evenly throughout the area. Try not to place hives amongst foliage. Bumblebee hives should always be placed at least 50 to 100 meters apart from honeybees hives. Try to elevate the hives so that they are not sitting directly on the ground, as ants can be a problem. Outdoor hives come in a waxed exterior cardboard box, however they should still be given shelter from rain and strong wind.
Home Garden Hives – We suggest placing the hive in a sheltered spot out of direct sunlight, to avoid them overheating. Try to elevate the hive so that they are not sitting directly on the ground, as ants can be an issue. Please ensure the hive has shelter from the rain.
When the hive arrives, we suggest leaving them to settle for at least an hour before you open then. This also gives the bee’s time to re-orientate themselves to their environment.
At the side of the hive, you will see a white plastic slider. This is the hive door, which allows the bees to be able to enter and exit the hive. Do not stand directly in front of the hive when opening it. Raise the white plastic slider all the way to the top, so that both holes are showing through the cardboard of the lid. Do not remove the small black plastic flap, this acts as a mechanism to stop the bees from exiting the hive should you need to shut the hive to move.
Bumblebees are vulnerable to pesticides and do need to be moved when spraying in a greenhouse. If you wish to move the hive, then move the white slider to the position with only one hole showing. This allows the bees to enter but not exit the hive. You can leave it in this position for several hours to ensure most of the bees have returned to the hive. You can then push the white slider all the way down so the holes are closed.
We suggest you shut the hive in the late evening when most bees will have returned to the hive.
Yes, caution should be exercised when using pesticides before and during flowering. Some pesticides can be harmful for bumblebees and may have long-term effects. Please talk to one of the Zonda staff if you are unsure.