No bees yet, Blueberry recommendation(s) needed

dsb22(z7 VA)April 22, 2013

Hi,
Last summer I purchased five blueberry bushes. The Premier, Pink Lemonade and Top Hat are currently blooming. Premier looks like it may be close to done. I'm afraid we won't have fruit from the Premier or PL this year. So far I've seen only 1 bee, and it wasn't near the blueberries.

The weather here was unseasonably cold (30s) throughout March and then suddenly went into the 80s in early April. Back to 60s now. However I found a site that listed Premier's bloom time as late winter/early spring. I'm concerned that lack of bees for pollination may be an ongoing problem.

Here are the blossom and fruit times of the varieties I have:

Premier--blooms late winter/early spring, fruit in late May, early June
Pink Lemonade-- blooms spring, fruit in late July, early August
Top Hat--blooms spring, fruit in late August
Sunshine Blue--blooms mid-spring, fruit in late June
Sweet Crisp--blooms mid-spring, not sure of fruit time

All the blueberries are in large pots on an east-facing deck. I do have plenty of bee-attracting plants on the deck and in gardens below but none are in bloom now. I did just purchase a salvia, pincushion flower and yarrow...also put out a hummingbird feeder and root beer. Any other ideas welcome.

I would like to have the longest blueberry season possible. Should I add another variety or replace the Premier (and/or Pink Lemonade), and if so, with what? Is there a self-pollinating variety, suitable for containers, that blooms and fruits early?

Thank you,
Deanna

This post was edited by dsb22 on Mon, Apr 22, 13 at 12:13

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shazaam(NC 7B)

I'm in North Carolina, and our weather pattern has been similar to yours. March was warmer here (mostly low 50s), but still cooler than usual. April began with a blast of heat (upper 80s to around 90), and we're just now beginning to see actual spring-like temps in the 60s and 70s. My earliest rabbiteyes began blooming in late February, and several of my Southern Highbush quickly followed. I didn't begin to see any active bees until late March, and then only a few. Nonetheless, I definitely have a lot of developing berries, so pollination doesn't seem to have been a problem. As was discussed in other recent thread, bumblebees are very efficient, and one can pretty much take care of an entire bush in a very short span of time. So, I wouldn't count your early bloomers out. There might have been a few active bees here and there that you didn't see.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 12:28PM
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dsb22(z7 VA)

Thanks, shazaam. That's good to hear. I had to hand-pollinate squash last year so that was contributing to my pessimism. I sure hope a bee or two has found the bushes!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 4:29PM
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ericwi

Here in Madison, WI, it is bumblebees that do most of the pollinating of our blueberry shrubs. The weather is still too cool for honeybees when the blueberries are in bloom, but the bumblebees can operate in 60 degree temps. The shrubs should hold their blossoms for two or three weeks, so there is a chance the bees will show up in time for you.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 6:08PM
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jtburton

I put up a Mason Bee house up about a month ago and have started to see them building nests. I won't know for a while whether they have helped the pollination process but it was a rather low-cost and painless process of adding the bee house. This might be something to consider for your blueberry plants.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 10:08AM
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meredith_e Z7b, Piedmont of NC, 1000' elevation

I live in NC, and I definitely saw my carpenter bees early this year, so you might want to attract them with untreated wood they can bore into. Now I've seen all kinds of bees and yellowjackets already.

As far as flowers that bloom, I have some very early version of spirea they like, and I stopped pulling out all of a minty purple-flowered weed I have because they really liked it. It's a pretty weed, lol. It just gets tall later. My rosemaries didn't bloom this year (transplanted last year), but bees love those, too. They were blooming at a vineyard I visited a couple of weeks ago.

Right now my bees are insane for the creeping charlie with purple flowers and the white clover. It sounds silly, but I'll be happy to send anyone some of these through the mail. My bees like the weeds better than most cultivated plants early in the year :)

    Bookmark   April 23, 2013 at 11:54PM
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ericwi

I have noticed that our bumblebees are all over the creeping charlie in the lawn, early in the season, when nothing else is blooming. Since we rely on the bumblebees to pollinate the blueberries, I have slowly developed a better attitude toward creeping charlie, and I no longer try to eradicate it.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 10:59AM
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