Friday, July 15, 2011

Blueberries - the Wonders Never Cease

So it shouldn't be news to anybody that the humble bumble bee is suffering a massive population decline. Scientists don't seem to be able to pinpoint why, or argue on said elusive pinpoint, but they all seem to be in agreement that this is a problem. (duh)

I still don't know *who* it was exactly, but someone got me a subscription to Organic Gardening. (thank you, whoever you are!). And I was reading the latest issue and I came across an article in the Common Ground section entitled "Common Ground: Collaborating with Gophers". I probably wouldn't have stopped to read it, except that it had a half-sheet size photo of unripe blueberries - a sight I now know very very well. And a sight that I am happy to not be seeing now. (if you remember, I was concerned that the berries weren't going to ripen this year due to the shriveling before ripening act they seemed to be very good at.)

First of all, extremely impressed that they cultivate 8 1/2 acres of highbush (what we think we have) blueberries. I have maybe a quarter of an acre and good golly it's a lot (even though I have yet to do any of the 'cultivating' part ... hehe).

But here's what got me - blueberries rely (mostly) on the also native bumblebee for pollination. Honeybees have a tough time getting into the flower to get at the nectar (bumblebees have long tongues, apparently and don't have to physically squeeze into the flower itself), they don't like cold and rain (bumblebees being American through and through make a point of suffering through cold and rain, something that their Eurpean counterparts the honey bee gave up eons ago) and they don't vibrate the whole flower at takeoff and landing - something bumblebees do that greatly enhances pollination.

Basically blueberries and bumblebees have a symbiotic relationship. Umm. Duh. They're both native to North America, a fact that doesn't seem to register on many people's radars anymore when they're trying to avoid the buzzing nuisances.

I had noticed that I had some bumblebees out here this past spring when the blueberries were in flower, but in all honesty didn't pay them too much mind as I really didn't pay attention to any other pollinators that were doing their job at the time.

Bumblebees are ground dwellers, and I always tried to avoid the holes in the ground that I know that they come out of, but I will redouble my efforts from now on. Odd as the perfect holes in the middle of my dirt walkways are...

And I am proud to realize that I am sitting on a cornucopia of cooperation in my blueberry patch. The fact the the blueberries have been around for decades - decades - is not something the blueberries pulled off alone, nor is it a fluke.  And not only have the bushes survived, they have flourished. Their descendants are all over the property, and all of them are thriving. They have had their busy little bee friends by their side and helping them along the way nature intended this whole time. Now it's time for me no to screw that up!

Cool blue dragonfly on a blueberry branch. I just wanted somewhere to put this photo. Ha!
Half-hour's worth of work. Woot.
Varying degrees of ripeness
This photo was taken holding my phone up above my head, arms extended.
From the fabulous wikipedia


Malia said...

So cool! I didn't know any of this!! (Should I be embarrassed?!)

Indiana said...

Malia- just a little bit. ;) Most everyone should be aware of the delicate balance that nature retains within itself to have been self sustaining for this long!

Caitlin- your blogging skills baffle me. You are the well of trivia.

caitlinvb said...

No Malia - I had NO idea about the whole bumblebee thing. None.

Indiana - I am obviously extremely visually oriented. Without the pic of blueberries, I probably wouldn't have read the article :)