The Southeastern Blueberry Bee (Habropoda laboriosa)
If you love blueberries, then you will love this bee which is a beneficial and efficient pollinator.
Although not entirely considered a specialist bee, the southeastern blueberry bee has a passion for rabbiteye blueberries and enjoys Trumpetflowers in the southeastern area of the USA. These bees can also be seen buzzing around other spring-blooming flowers in search of nectar, like azalea, clover, and eastern redbud.
The blueberry bee has proven itself to be the best pollinator of rabbiteye blueberries, even if there are other species capable of dislodging the pollen as well. This native blueberry requires buzz pollination, which means it needs an insect to shake the pollen loose by vibration.
The only time of year to see these little bees is in early spring between February and April. Their emergence coincides with the blooming of their favorite blueberries flowers. Sadly, they are only active for 3-5 weeks, and then, once they have laid their eggs and sealed off their nest, they die.
This 3:17-minute video by Cuplet Fern Florida Native Plant Society shows us some blueberry bees at work:
The southeastern blueberry bee does better in cooler temperatures than many bees do. They can warm up and fly when temperatures are below 60F by vibrating their wing muscles to generate heat.
Commercial blueberry growers like working with the blueberry bee. One study revealed that a single female adult blueberry bee pollinates enough blueberry flowers in her lifetime to produce around 6,000 blueberries.
Their likeness to bumblebees is notable. These little dark brown and yellow fuzzy bees have short round bodies and large heads. The upper head is fuzzy and golden while the lower part and abdomen are dark brown. They are strong fliers.
This is another native solitary bee that does not nest in colonies. The female builds her own nest in the ground, usually near the nests of other female blueberry bees. This gives a sense of community while maintaining their solitary natures since they have no colonies to protect. Blueberry bees do not sting unless they are squeezed or threatened.
She visits up to 600 blueberry flowers just to collect enough pollen to make a single ball of food for one egg.
When it comes to using pesticides in your garden, keep in mind that all the little ground nesting bees you have met here this past week are vulnerable to being hurt and killed by pesticides that are sprayed on the ground and flowers. In other words, pesticide-free is the way to go.
By the time we enjoy eating blueberries these sweet blueberry bees are long gone, so don’t forget to send them a silent thank you for the luscious fruits they make possible.
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