Honey Bees & Blueberries: Season Updates

Friday 7 May 2021

This week’s blog provides some updates on the progression of both the beekeeping and blueberry seasons so far. We reached out to a couple experts in these industries who were kind enough to shed some light on how this year’s season is shaping up, including some updates and predictions specifically for this year’s blueberry pollination! It has been a bit of an odd spring, so it is a good idea to make sure, if you are a beekeeper in blueberry pollination, that you are communicating and staying up to speed on how the blueberries are coming along.

ATTTA also has some exciting updates of our own to share! Keep reading to find out what new and exciting things are coming in our ‘What’s the Buzz with ATTTA’ beekeeping podcast and our Fundamentals of Beekeeping certificate program.

Honey Bees & Blueberries: Season Updates

Here in the Maritimes of Canada, the beekeeping industry and the honey bee industry are closely tied to one another through pollination. The blueberry growers need their blueberry blooms to be sufficiently pollinated for a good berry yield and the beekeepers have just the thing for the job! As a beekeeper involved in blueberry pollination, it is important to stay informed about the progression of blueberry bloom to ensure that colony management matches the timing of the season and that hives will be ready to go for pollination.

Cameron Menzies, Berry Crop Development Officer / Provincial Apiarist at PEI Department of Agriculture provided an update for the PEI area:

“Things are looking good here so far - don’t have any official numbers yet as to what our overwinter losses are but the anecdotal reports I’ve been getting from beekeepers are positive (10% - 20% loss range). Some beekeepers are even talking about swarm management now to deal with strong hives that came through the winter. 

Spring is advancing quite quickly here - we’re likely ahead by around a week in terms of blueberry bud development. I’m guessing wild blueberry pollination is going to start a week early here. Willow catkins are in full bloom and producing a lot of pollen - I’ve even seen some dandelions beginning to bloom.”

Michel Melanson, Crop Specialist at New Brunswick Department of Agriculture provided an update for the New Brunswick area:

“Blueberry fields have come through with very little winter injury observed, in most of the major growing regions. The early snow melt and warm March and April have accelerated blueberry development. Many of the region are 5 to 7 days in advance compared to previous years. 

As the crop is on track to be about 5-7 days earlier, growers and beekeepers are encouraged to make early contacts, as potential delivery dates and field pollination may be earlier than previous years.

Southern NB:

Many fields are now 50% or more at the F2 to F4 stage. Coastal fields are 30 to 40% F2. It is likely the first flowers will be visible in mid May

Northern NB: 

Fields visit in a few locations recorded about 20% F2 in certain areas of the field.  Again, these fields are 5 to 7 days advance compared to previous years. A few open flowers should be visible by Victoria Day weekend.”

Hugh Lyu, Wild Blueberry Specialist, Perennia Food and Agriculture Inc, provided an update on the Nova Scotia blueberry situation:

"Blueberry plant development: things are moving fast this spring. I am sure most of you would notice the fast development of blueberry plants this year. By the end of April, fields in southwest NS and Hants county, blueberry plants have reached more than 40% of F2 floral buds. That means fields in those areas are walking to the Monilinia blight season. Growers in those areas should monitor the forecast closely. Fields in other areas are not that far away from the threshold. Some early fields in Colchester and Cumberland got their first blight spraying in the last two weeks of April and the majority of fields are at 30% and above, therefore, those fields will walk into the blight season the first week of May or sooner. If you want to know more details about plant development in NS wild blueberry fields, please visit Perennia’s wild blueberry blog:                 http://www.novascotiawildblueberryblog.com/.


Figure 1. Blueberry Crop Field, 2021.

Figure 2. Blueberry floral buds at F1 and F2 stages.


Winter damage on floral buds: this past winter, we had low snowfall and little snow coverage in blueberry fields. I have concerns about potential winter damage on floral buds over the winter.  When I did blueberry stem bud counts over the last few weeks, I observed minimum to no winter damage on floral buds in Colchester and Hants. The average floral bud numbers in those areas range from 6-12 per stem.

Figure 3. Blueberry stems with floral buds.

Pollination: With the fast plant development and warm weather, I expect we will get an early pollination season if the condition stays this way. The growing degree model data from the province show that we are well ahead of the last five years."

ATTTA Updates:

Episode 4 of our ‘What’s the Buzz with ATTTA’ beekeeping podcast is set to be released on Friday May 7th and will be available on a variety of platforms for your listening and learning enjoyment. Check it out, give it a listen, see what neat bee-related topics you will learn about in this hot-off-the-press podcast episode! Access our podcast episodes here.

The second course of our four-course beekeeping certificate program – offered in partnership with Dalhousie Extended Learning – is getting its final touches to be ready for its rollout early next week! Teaching and learning for our Fundamentals of Beekeeping program, Course 2: Working Bees & Hive Health will commence on Tuesday May 11th and conclude on Saturday May 15th. If you would like to be a part of this virtual and online beekeeping course, there is still time to register! Program, course, and registration details are found on the Fundamentals of Beekeeping program website



Connecting with ATTTA Specialists

If you’d like to connect with ATTTA specialists or learn more about our program, you can: