Frequent Asked Questions

The difference between honeybees and bumblebees, can bumblebees be used along with honeybees or how long will the hives pollinate? Koppert gathered all kinds of questions in this FAQ-list.

About our bumblebees

What is the difference between honeybees and bumblebees?

In terms of their strong natural pollination qualities, bumblebees and honeybees complement each other well. The main difference with honeybees is that bumblebees also fly out in poorer weather conditions. 
For example: earlier in the day, at lower temperatures and in light rain and wind.
Bumblebees 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.

Do bumblebees produce honey?

No. Although bumblebees store nectar like honeybees, they do not have to save enough nectar to survive the winter(since the queens hibernate alone during winter). Moreover, bumblebees do not use an organized nest structure like honeybees, so separating the honey pots from the larva/eggs/pollen would be very difficult.

Do bumblebees suffer from Colony Collapse Disorder too?

No, Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is the name given to the mysterious disappearance of many honeybee colonies.
Although the exact causes are unclear, it appears that a combination of parasites and pesticides may be to blame.
As the entire honeybee colony survives the winter, honeybees are particularly sensitive to these.
In the case of bumblebees, only the queen hibernates and survives the winter. Bumblebees are therefore not affected by CCD.

Do bumblebees sting and if so, do they die after?

Although bumblebees DO sting, they only do this in self defence and almost exclusively when you’re near their hive or when you restrict their movement (e.g. when you step on them or try to hold them in your hand). Unlike honeybee stings, bumblebees do not leave their venom sac in their victim and will live on after they sting. Bumblebees are generally regarded as less aggressive than honeybees or wasps.

Can bumblebees be used along with honeybees?

Bumblebees and honeybees can be used together with caution. Koppert hives contain bags with a  sugar water solution, which can attract honeybees, especially when no flowers are available for the honeybees. If honeybees begin raiding the hives, the health and longevity of the hives can be jeopardized. When using bumblebees and honeybees together, Koppert recommends separating the two bees by a minimum of 100 /110yards - 90/100 meters. It is advised to introduce the honeybees somewhat later, after at least 5% of the flowers start blossoming.

Are bumblebees affected by chemical applications?

Bumblebees are just as sensitive to chemicals as honeybees. To determine the appropriate action when spraying chemicals, visit the side effects page or contact your Koppert representative.

Are wild animals attracted to hives?

The sugar water and pollen in the hives can attract other insects and animals. Most insects attracted to the hives are generally a nuisance, and do not effect the viability of the bees. Animals, such as bears, can pose a more serious threat. If bears are present, it is recommended that agricultural electrical fencing is placed around the Tripol/Quad units.

About our products

Can hives be separated from the Tripol/Quad box?

The box is an integral part of the pollination unit and should not me removed. It protects the hives from adverse weather conditions and it's insulating properties reduce the need for the bumblebees to expel energy regulating hive temperatures during fluctuating weather extremes

When should orders be placed?

The production of bumblebees (from queen to colony) takes at least several months. For large orders it is advised to contact Koppert or one of our distributors 12 to 14 weeks in advance to guarantee the delivery.

In general, smaller orders can be supplied within a few days.

How many hives do I need?

The recommended number of NatupolTripol or Quad units per surface acres varies depending on the crop, environment, and abundance of other naturally occurring pollinators or commercial pollinators, such as honeybees. We recommend you to ask your fruit advisor, distributor or contact us directly for adequate placement strategies.

How are the hives packaged?

Bumblebee hives are sold in a single hive, indoor models called Natupol, and triple hive, waterproof insulated outdoor models, called the Tripol. In North America, a 4 hive solution called a Quad: is available for outdoot crops.

Can I use your pollination products in combination with IPM systems?

Yes. All Koppert IPM products are completely compatible with bumblebees.

About the placement of the hives

When should hives be placed in the crop?

Natupol and Minipol should be introduced when the first flowers appear. We recommend introducing Tripol, Quad or Natupol Booster 4-7 days before blossom.

How long will the hives pollinate?

The hives will last one season, approximately 6-8 weeks. They will naturally expire at the end of the season.

Where should hives be placed?

Koppert recommends introducing the Tripol/Quad units intact (containing 3/4 bumblebee hives) evenly spaced in a checkerboard pattern within the field.The same applies to Natupol Booster. If the Tripol/Quad units cannot be placed within the field, they should be evenly spaced along the perimeter of the crop. For more placement advice check the product guide for NatupolTripol or Quad.

Can the hives be moved?

  • Both Natupol and Tripol/Quad can be moved around within the target crop, or from one crop to another with successive flowering periods.
  • About 4 hours before sunset, slide the slide-door into the position in which bumblebees can only enter the hive (1 opening visible).
  • After a maximum of 2 hours, all the bumblebees will be inside and the slide-door can be closed fully. The hives can then be moved.
  • After repositioning the hives, wait half an hour before sliding the slide-door back to the open position. This gives the bumblebees the chance to settle down again.
  • Natupol Booster does not have a slide-door. Therefore the hives can best be closed after sunset before moving.

 

 

 

How do I close the hives prior to chemical applications?

Each hive door has an exit and an entrance. A black tab located in the door system, allows for an entrance-only into the hive. When collecting the workers in the hive, gently slide the door to the entrance-only Beehome position. It is recommended that this is done prior to sunrise when the bees are less active. Leave the hive doors in this position for at least two hours following sunrise to ensure all of the bees have returned to their hives. Close the hives completely prior to the chemical application. The bees should remain in the hives until the recommended re-entry period. Natupol Booster does not have a slide-door. Therefore the hives can best be closed after sunset before moving.

 

What is over-pollination and should I worry about it?

Over-pollination happens when bumblebees are starving for food in strawberry greenhouses. They then shake the anthers of the flowers so vigorously that it ends up damages the fruit, which can lead to malformed fruit, sometimes with dark marks on them. Because of the bumblebees explorative nature, this behaviour is never a problem in outdoor pollination. In indoor pollination, it has only been observed in strawberries, and only when the bumblebee densities were too high. Please check with your advisor for the right amount of hives to be placed.

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