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Wednesday word file: pollination saturation

Pollination saturation is the practice of flooding a crop with an overly-large number of honey bee colonies in order to assure adequate pollination.

The practice is used where the crop to be pollinated is either not a honey bee favorite, or when it happens to be in bloom at the same time that other nearby crops—those more favorable to honey bees—are also in bloom. The extra-large population of bees will not find enough forage without working the non-favored plants as well as the favored ones.

For example, blueberries are not a favored plant although honey bees will forage on them if nothing else is available. But if the farmer next door is growing cabbage seed, the honey bees will abandon the blueberries in favor of the cabbage. To assure good blueberry pollination, the blueberry farmer is forced to bring in extra colonies of bees.

Pollination saturation is also used in alfalfa, ladino clover, alsike clover, cranberries, and standard kiwifruit. Its use has become more frequent as the number of native pollinators has decreased and the number of monoculture crops has increased.

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