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Nature Notebook – Bumblebees and Blueberries

Michigan produces one-third of the blueberries eaten in the United States and most of those are grown in southwest Michigan. Not only are blueberries a delicious fruit, but it contributes over $100 million to the state’s economy.

The pollen from blueberry plants is heavy in pollen terms, meaning pollination is dependent on insects, versus wind, to move the pollen from the male part of the flower, the anthers, to the female part, the stigma.

A study from Michigan State University found that one of the best pollinators for blueberries is bees, and more specifically, bumblebees. Only one visit from a bumblebee to a flower deposits enough pollen for complete pollination compared to the three visits it would take a honey bee.

Since bumblebees are large in size, they create a higher frequency or “buzzing” when feeding on the sweet nectar of a blueberry flower. When the bumblebee “shakes” the flower, it gets covered in its’ pollen. Once a flower is pollinated, it takes about a month to create a juicy berry for us to enjoy!