Honey Bee Stocking Density on Wild Blueberries: Part 2

Thursday 7 April 2022

Successful pollination is just one of the many factors which contribute to the total yield of a wild blueberry field. Some aspects of pollination are out of our control, such as weather conditions during bloom, but others can be managed to increase pollination success. In this week’s blog, we will pick up where we left off in our discussion of honey bee hive stocking rates on wild blueberry fields. 

Honey Bee Stocking Density on Wild Blueberries: Part 2

We ended the blog last week with a table of various suggestions for hive stocking rates on wild blueberry fields, seen below.

Stocking Density (hives/hectare)

Hive number



10 (range 4.5–12.5)


Asare et al. 2017



McCallum 2020

5 – 7.5



5 – 12


Eaton et al. 2004


Most of these recommendations suggest a range of hive numbers. This range reflects the reality that each field is unique. One field might benefit most from having 6 hives/ha while another requires 10 hives/ha to achieve maximum pollination success. Other factors which contribute to the impact of hive density are field coverage, wild pollinator populations, microclimate, and other applications or treatments. 

Research has shown pollination success and blueberry yields to increase with greater stocking rates of hives (Bushman and Drummond 2020, McCallum et al. 2020). However, adding more hives to a field will not increase yields indefinitely. Eaton and Nams (2012) demonstrated that there is a limit to this linear relationship between stocking density and berry yield (see figure below). 

Fig. 2. Relationship between yield and density of beehives, after the statistical removal of the effects of year and county. Each dot represents one field in 1 year. Lines show 95% confidence regions for the overall mean effect. Yield increases linearly with hive density till about 4 hives/ha – beyond that the relationship is not clear. (Eaton and Nams 2012)

This research suggests that after approximately 4 hives/ha, the positive linear relationship between stocking density and berry yield becomes less defined. After this point, it is the characteristics of the individual field which dictate the necessity for more hives. For example, field coverage, wild pollinator populations, microclimate. Each field must be considered individually to achieve maximum pollination potential. Researchers have also considered the value of each hive, individually, to a field. Studies have conservatively estimated that each individual honey bee colony placed on a wild blueberry field during pollination will increase yields between 192-400 kg/ha (Eaton and Nams 2012; Yarborough 2004). Other work has set the per hive increase in yield as high as 1971 kg / ha (Bushman & Drummond, 2020).  After a stocking rate of perhaps around 7 – 8 hives per hectare, yields will more significantly be influenced by individual fields characteristics and the investment may begin to outweigh the cost. Higher stocking rates need to be carefully considered against individual field potential!

Overall, a review of the relevant research demonstrates a significant value in adding honey bee colonies to wild blueberry fields. Optimal stocking rates will vary based on the individual season and field but, generally, minimal stocking has revealed a strong, positive relationship with increasing pollination success and subsequent berry yield. This means that on the average wild blueberry field, pollination success of blooms will increase steadily with stocking rates up to a point and after this, the individual characteristics of the field will dictate how much each additional hive will improve pollination. As the potential yields of fields increases due to better farming practices, this minimum stocking rate needs to be reviewed. Successful pollination is critical to the development of ripe, harvestable berries. In the upcoming blogs, we will continue with the topic of achieving optimal pollination services through discussion of hive placement in the fields and the strength of the colonies within. 

Asare, E.; Hoshide, A.K.; Drummond, F.A.; Chen, X.; Criner, G.K. Economic risk of bee pollination in Maine wild blueberry, Vaccinium angustifolium Aiton. J. Econ. Entomol. 2017, 110, 1980–1992.
Bushmann, S.L. and Drummond, F.A., 2020. Analysis of Pollination Services Provided by Wild and Managed Bees (Apoidea) in Wild Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium Aiton) Production in Maine, USA, with a Literature Review. Agronomy, 10(9), p.1413.
Eaton, L.J., Kenna MacKenzie, Dale McIsaac, and John Murray. 2004. “Lowbush Blueberry Fact Sheet: Pollinating Wild Lowbush Blueberries in Nova Scotia.” https://www.perennia.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/pollinating-wild-lowbush-bluberries-ns.pdf.
Eaton, L.J. and Nams, V.O., 2012. Honey bee stocking numbers and wild blueberry production in Nova Scotia. Canadian Journal of Plant Science, 92(7), pp.1305-1310.
McCallum, Robyn. 2020. “Examining the Effect of Honey Bee Colony Stocking Density in Wild Blueberries.” Perennia. https://www.perennia.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Effect-of-Stocking-Density-in-WB-eng-3.pdf.
NB DAFF (ND) Managing Honey Bee Hives for the Pollination of Wild Blueberries. Wild Blueberry Factsheet B.3.0
Yarborough, D.E., 2004. Factors contributing to the increase in productivity in the wild blueberry industry. Small Fruits Review, 3(1-2), pp.33-43.

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