Wanted dead or alive: bumblebee nests in the Waikato

6 March 2013

Scientists at Plant & Food Research are looking at where bumblebees like to nest - research that could provide valuable insight for pollinating crops in the Waikato region and beyond.

The Pollination & Bee Unit at Plant & Food Research’s Ruakura site is developing artificial nesting boxes for bumblebees, known to be a good pollinator of crops. By investigating natural bumblebee nests in the Hamilton area, they are hoping to be able to create the ideal home for these important insects.

“Pollination is vital in crop production and providing growers with pollination services to support the work of native bees, flies and other pollinators is important in maximising yield,” says Dr David Pattemore. “Bumblebees are known to be better pollinators than honeybees for most crops, but the main limitation is the number of bumblebees available compared with the tens of thousands of honeybees in managed beehives.

“We are investigating whether we can increase the population of bumblebees by providing them with artificial nest sites. If they establish colonies in our nest boxes, we can manage them in similar ways to those currently used with honeybees. We’ve already had some success with our initial trials of artificial nests, but to make a real difference for pollination we need to learn as much as possible about how and where bumblebees prefer to nest.”

If you live in the Waikato and have noticed a nest of bumblebees, either still alive or no longer active, in your garden, the research team would like to hear from you. The researchers will note the location of the nest and in some cases collect it for further investigation. Please contact Heather McBrydie on 07 959 4551.

Emma Timewell
Communications Manager, Corporate Communications,
Plant & Food Research Mt Albert,
120 Mt Albert Road, Sandringham
Auckland, 1025, New Zealand
EMail: media@plantandfood.co.nz
Telephone: +64-9-925 8692
Mobile: +64-21-2429 365

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