2 Aug 2010

Bees helping with artificial kiwifruit pollination

12:58 pm on 2 August 2010

In an ironic twist, scientists have found that honey bees are helping to make artificial pollination of kiwifruit orchards more effective.

About 80,000 beehives are brought into orchards during flowering to pollinate the vines, and providing the service is an important source of income for many bee-keepers.

In recent years, however, growers have found bees have been less effective and that's led to a greater use of artificial pollination services, using pollen laboriously collected from kiwifruit flowers, which is sprayed or blown onto the vines.

The head of the Plant and Food Institute's bee research unit, Dr Mark Goodwin, says an estimated 20% to 30% of the country's kiwifruit orchards are now using artifical pollination to supplement the job that bees are doing.

Scientists have found bees are picking up the pollen sprayed onto vines and spreading it to flowers.

Mark Goodwin says about 300 tonnes of male kiwifruit flowers are picked each year to produce three tonnes of pollen for artificial pollination.