Exploring the relationship between cranberry and its honey bee pollinators

In agriculture, the efficiency of pollinators is often talked about from the perspective of influence on plant yield.  Less often is the benefit of the plant to the pollinator considered.  This article does just that, and comes up with some interesting findings on how Vaccinium cropping systems affect the health of pollinator (specifically, honey bee) communities.

Pollen diversity collected by honey bees in the vicinity of Vaccinium spp. crops and its importance for colony development


Access to a rich diversity of flowering plants is very important for the development of honey bee colonies introduced in crops for pollination. The aim of this observational study was to determine the impact of surrounding pollen diversity on the health of honey bee colonies introduced in lowbush blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium Ait.) in June and cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon Ait.) in July. The results suggest that monocultures of lowbush blueberries are not suitable for optimal brood rearing. In the blueberry environments we studied, the dominant pollen collected by honey bees were Alnus Mill. spp. and Taraxacum officinale F.H. Wigg., which are deficient in some essential amino acids. Significant reduction of brood rearing during honey bees’ stay in blueberry monocultures in June may, therefore, be explained by nutritional deficiencies. In July, the polliniferous flora in the vicinity of cranberry monocultures was poorer but of better nutritional quality. Pollen analysis allowed the identification of Brassicaceae, Trifolium L. spp., and V. macrocarpon as the three dominant taxa collected by honey bees during this period. The complete lists of plant taxa foraged by honey bees for pollen during the pollination of lowbush blueberries and cranberries are provided.

If you would like to read the article in full, here is the citation information and a link to where you can access it for free:

Girard, M., M. Chagnon, and V. Fournier. July 2012. Pollen diversity collected by honey bees in the vicinity of Vaccinium spp. crops and its importance for colony development. Botany 90 (7): 545–555.