Insect pollinators of haskap ( Lonicera caerulea L.: Caprifoliaceae) in subarctic Canada

Open Agriculture. 2019; 4: 676-683.  by Maria C.-Y. Leung*, Jessica R.K. Forrest

Everyone who has ever grown haskaps (honeyberries) knows that they attract bumble bees. In Fairbanks, they bloom so early, and air temperatures can be cool, that honeybees can be insufficient for good berry production. Researchers Maria Leung and Jessica Forrest showed that bumble bees rule the day. The authors also reported that commercial berry production Yukon doubled from 2011 and 2016, and the most prevalent berry crop is haskap.

Haskaps are self incompatible and require two compatible cultivars for pollination. and they attract a variety of insects including bee flies, syrphid flies, honeybees, butterflies and bumblebees. The researchers counted and identified insect visitors in commercial fields between 11 am and 5 pm on cool, sunny days near Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. Bumble bee visitors ranged from 96% to 32% of all insect visitors. Despite the flower architecture which is trumpet shaped and would hint at butterflies, they were the least common insect visitors. Native insect are very important to pollination in the North. The authors contrasted their results with Saskatchewan where honey bees outnumbered bumble bees as insect visitors on hasps. Anyone who gardens in the North should promote nesting sites for native bumble bees.

Abstract: Recently, the Yukon has seen a large growth in agricultural activity. Crops of commercial interest for local consumption and the export market include domestic berries, especially haskap (Lonicera caerulea L.). However, information on the pollination of these crops in our northern climate is lacking. To begin addressing this knowledge gap, we characterized foraging habits of on-farm bees in southwest Yukon by: 1) identifying pollen collected by bees occupying solitary bee houses; and 2) identifying and counting insect visitors to haskap flowers. Results show that cavity-nesting bees collect a wide variety of pollen including pollen from haskap, and that bumble bees (Bombus spp.) were much more common on haskap flowers than domestic honey bees (Apis mellifera L.), other bee species, syrphid flies, and butterflies. The number of bumble bees per haskap flower was also higher than reported elsewhere in Canada. The ability of bumble bees to be active in cool temperatures and the proximity of the study farms to natural ecosystems likely explain the prevalence of bumble bees in this study. In Yukon, it is still possible to support insect pollinators by maintaining natural areas among agricultural lands. Such undeveloped lands are, at present, typical of agricultural landscapes in subarctic Canada.

One response to “Insect pollinators of haskap ( Lonicera caerulea L.: Caprifoliaceae) in subarctic Canada

  1. I seriously can not figure out why these are not more popular elsewhere, or at least here. I sort of suspect that they will not like the climate. I intend to try them anyway.

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