Henry is that rarity in local hives, a fine Irish bee who even buzzes with a brogue. The other bees, who all have Detroit accents, like him well enough, but claim to have trouble understanding him sometimes because he has "a mouth full of clover."
The financial problems in the last year appear to have had little impact on the bees. Bumble bees are among the most conservative of social insects and put most of their earnings in honey futures, which have held up well in the current market.
Thank you to everyone for their patience. It has been a very busy few weeks has the Cape Abilities Farm Bee Mobile as been criss-crossing Cape Cod - and crossing the bridge to Boston.
We're bee hind in getting our bee biographies up on the Cape Abilities blog. We are working diligently to interview the dozens of newly adopted bees - and get their background information online ASAP. Stay tuned for more bees!
In addition to tomatoes, bumblebees are also used to pollinate other crops. Growers use them to pollinate cucumbers. peppers, eggplants, melons, strawberries, blueberries and squash.
The bumblebees at Cape Abilities Farm will help us grow more than 30,000 pounds of tomatoes this summer.
The people working at Cape Abilities Farm and the bumblebees work well together. The bees have stingers, but they’re generally not aggressive or troubled by the presence of their human co-workers. However, bumblebees do have a few things they dislike. The color blue, for some reason. They also don’t like strong smells like perfumes or aftershave and metal bracelets, rings and watches. Go figure.
Bumblebees can save hydroponic farmers money. Until 20 years ago, the standard pollination process involved having workers manually stimulate the tomato flowers as often as three times a week to distribute the pollen. Switching to bumblebees increased the number and size of tomatoes and cut costs by about 75 percent.
In addition to being efficient, the bumblebees are also environmentally friendly. They are good early indicators of a problem in the greenhouse environment or plant health. If bumblebees cease pollinating, it indicates that something in the greenhouse has made the pollen unpalatable to the bees. This is a good early warning signal. Also, because of their sensitivity, growers like Cape Abilities Farm follow an integrated pest management approach with less reliance on hard chemicals and more use of biological control agents.
Each bumblbee that you adopt helps support the farm and create jobs for people with disabilities on Cape Cod.
The bumblebees who work at Cape Abilities Farm are in fact guest foreign workers. The hives – actually special cardboard boxes – containing the bees are assembled in the Netherlands, where the use of bumblebees to grow hydroponic plants has been perfected. They are airmailed to the farm, given some time to rest from jetlag, then let loose on the tomato plants.
The queen bee is the largest bumblebee followed by the female worker bee with the male drone bee being the smallest. Bumblebee workers can weight between .4 and .6 grams, while queens can weigh as much as .85 grams.
Bumblebees are used in the growing process because unlike other types of bees they work well in a greenhouse environment. The average bumblebee visits 450 tomato flowers an hour. A normal hive can average 240,000 visits a week. The hives used by Cape Abilities Farm have about 75 to 100 worker bees apiece.
The delicious tomatoes grown by Cape Abilities Farm are the product of the efforts of two kinds of workers: the people who tend and harvest the tomatoes in the greenhouse and the hundreds of bumblebees who help the tomatoes grow by pollinating the tomato plants. It’s difficult to say which group works harder, but the bumblebees set a high standard.
They work all day, from dawn to dusk and they work throughout the growing year. They visit hundreds of flowers every hour. The bumblebees greatly increase the productivity of the tomato plants, while allowing the human workers to perform more complex tasks. And all they ask for is some pollen with perhaps a little sugar water thrown in now and then.
Bumblebees get their name not because they are big and clumsy compared to other bees but because of the loud noise they make in comparison with other bees.One of the less used meanings of the word “bumble” is to drone or buzz.