Video | Agriculture | Confidence | Economy | Energy | Employment | Finance | Media | Property | RBNZ | Science | SOEs | Tax | Technology | Telecoms | Tourism | Transport | Search


Nothing humble about the bumble

NEWS RELEASE: Nothing humble about the bumble

Tauranga, 27 August 2013:

Avocado growers are keen to hear the latest research findings on the use of bumblebees as pollinators, says AVOCO technical manager Colin Partridge, so they can plan to put the findings into practice and improve the consistency of harvests.

The topic will be addressed at the Australia-New Zealand avocado conference in Tauranga next month, and AVOCO, as principal sponsor of the conference and the largest grower group, appreciates the significance of the research.

“If avocado growers could soon be able to call in special reinforcements to pollinate their trees – the not-so-humble bumblebee – it will do a lot to stabilise the industry and could even help overcome the persistent boom/bust nature of the harvests,” says Mr Partridge.

“I have heard it said that bumblebees are not aerodynamically equipped to fly. The trouble is; no one told them. We certainly know bumblebees are hard workers and are seen to forage in much cooler and darker conditions that honeybees will, so I hope this research will be leading to good results that our growers can implement to increase fruit set."

As threats to traditional honey bees increase the cost of pollination, scientists have turned their attention to wild bumblebees to harness their potential as pollinators of avocado.

Dr David Pattemore, a pollination scientist at the New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research, is bringing his findings to the Australia-New Zealand avocado conference in Tauranga in September. His research is being funded internally, with assistance from Pollen Plus and the Avocado Industry Council.

“We know for many crops that bumblebees are much more effective as pollinators [than honey bees],” reports Dr Pattemore. “They carry more pollen and are better at cross pollination.

“Each bumblebee does the work of 50 honey bees on kiwifruit, and we are expecting the ratio to be pretty similar on avocados.”

The avocado industry is plagued by the boom and bust nature of the harvest, with trees tending to produce copious amounts of fruit one year, then little the next. This is known in the industry as irregular bearing. Part of the problem is that the trees have maturing fruit and next season’s flowers on the tree at the same time.

“The overall aim of our research on avocado pollination is to find ways to increase fruit set in years that would typically result in low fruit numbers,” says Dr Pattemore, “We believe that providing growers with the ability to manage highly effective bumblebees is an important part of the solution.”

The researchers started by building artificial nesting boxes to attract bumblebees. A pilot trial was run in five Bay of Plenty avocado orchards. The orchards were monitored to determine the percentage of hives occupied, the size of the colonies achieved, and this information will direct future research.

“Our biggest colony in our nest boxes last year was 1,500 bumblebees, and overall we had a success rate of 33%. That’s right up there with the best studies worldwide.”

Dr Pattemore says bumblebees are social bees like honey bees, but as yet we don’t have the same methods for managing them. It is worth investigating, however, as growers could eventually be able to reduce their reliance on honey bees – and get away from relying on a single species.

What with varroa mite and other factors affecting honey bee hive health, it is becoming expensive to bring in honey bee hives for orchard pollination, he says. “Current prices are at the limit of what avocado orchardists can afford. We expect that these prices will rise further in the years ahead.”

Dr Pattemore is one of the guest speakers at the three-day conference, which starts 9 September. The bumblebee research is just part of his speech, and field trips will demonstrate the nest boxes. Further details about the conference are available at


© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


Government: Delivering Lower Card Fees To Business

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister David Clark has today announced the Government’s next steps to reduce merchant service fees, that banks charge businesses when customers use a credit or debit card to pay, which is estimated to save New Zealand businesses ... More>>

SEEK NZ Employment Report: April 2021

OVERVIEW OF APRIL 2021: STATE OF THE NATION: April, for the second consecutive month, saw the highest number of jobs ever advertised on Applications per job ad fell 9% month-on-month (m/m). SEEK job ads were up by 12% m/m. SEEK job ads were ... More>>

Commerce Commission: Warns Genesis Over Business Billing Errors

The Commerce Commission has issued a warning to Genesis Energy Limited about billing errors concerning electricity line charges to business customers. Genesis reported the errors to the Commission. The Commission considers that Genesis is likely to ... More>>

Stats: Lower Job Security Linked To Lower Life Satisfaction

People who feel their employment is insecure are more likely than other employed people to rate their overall life satisfaction poorly, Stats NZ said today. New survey data from the March 2021 quarter shows that 26 percent of employed people who thought ... More>>

The Conversation: The Outlook For Coral Reefs Remains Grim Unless We Cut Emissions Fast — New Research

A study of 183 coral reefs worldwide quantified the impacts of ocean warming and acidification on reef growth rates. Even under the lowest emissions scenarios, the future of reefs is not bright. More>>

The Conversation: Why Now Would Be A Good Time For The Reserve Bank Of New Zealand To Publish Stress Test Results For Individual Banks

Set against the backdrop of an economy healing from 2020’s annus horribilis , this week’s Financial Stability Report (FSR) from the Reserve Bank (RBNZ) was cautiously reassuring: the country’s financial system is sound, though vulnerabilities remain. More>>