In collaborative research with German researchers at the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, Julia Osterman, a biologist at the University of Gothenburg, found that pollination by more than one species of bee significantly improved the cherry harvest. This due to the synergy effect in those orchards in which more than one species of bees were present.
As it was published in the journal Ecology and Evolution, the study observed bees in 17 orchards in eastern Germany. In some cases, producers used honey bees in their hives, while others used wild mason bees. The outcome of the research was very significant, demonstrating that orchards with different bees could have cherries on up to 70 percent of the blossom, against those who had only one species which rate could be as low as 20 percent.
As Osborne said on the University of Gothenburg website, “it had an impact on the setting of sweet cherries […] that are usually planted in alternating rows of different cultivars. In some cases, you can put different cultivars in the same row, but this can complicate harvest logistics. In other words, bees have to fly from one row of trees to the next to make sure the trees bear fruit.”
This, of course, is not something necessarily new for all producers. As the article explains, many growers already used more than one species of bee in their orchards, mainly due to the temperatures and the different ways in which one species or another reacted to them, varying from species to species.
As for the reasons, the main theory implies that it could be because the presence of mason bees, observed in this case, affects the behavior of honey bees when searching for food, making them change rows more frequently, which results in greater cross pollination. And although there is still no further information, the synergy effect has been proven.
This article is based on the publication of the University of Gothenburg and on the study published in the journal Ecology and Evolution.