The production of candied fruits involves different stages, the first ones taking place, as expected, in the natural environment: sowing, pruning, pollination, harvest… We are going to tell you how (and when) natural pollination of the fruit trees is carried out. It is one of the most fascinating stages for those of us who love natural environment, so we want to explain here to encourage our customers to trust in the quality of our products.
We are both fruit growers and producers of the best preserved fruit, made with the fruit harvested in our own plantations. That is why we have a comprehensive approach to all the process of preserving fruit. We have an in-depth knowledge of farming operations, a key moment for the production of candied fruits, and this has allowed us to supply our factory with an unbeatable raw material.
The pollination of the fruit trees takes place in April, coinciding with the cherry blossom time as well as some other fruit trees anual blooming. It is in this stage of the production of candied fruits when the bumblebees come on the scene, buzzing around the flowers. Undoubtedly, it is one of those moments in which one realizes that there is no better technology than the one provided by Mother Nature…
Pollination with bumblebees
Pollination is the pollen transfer from the flower’s stamens to the pistil. The wind is the pollinator of some botanical species (turf and conifers, for example), while insects (bees, butterflies…) are the pollinators of most of the flowering plants. Even water and vertebrate animals (mice, bats and birds) may pollinize plants in some cases…
All the living beings that pollinate plants resort to flowers because they get something out of them for themselves: nectar, pollen or both. Pollen lands on their body after being shaked by the insects buzz, and occasionally it also lands on the stigma of either the same flower or another one. Bumblebees are endowed with special baskets on the hind legs to store the pollen that has landed on their bodies. The pollen in the baskets is not available for pollination anymore; what matters here is the loose pollen on their bodies…
The natural pollination of Lazaya’s fruit crops is performed by bumblebees whose hives are placed under the fruit trees. We manage this way the natural process for the production of candied fruits just in time, saving labour costs, improving the quality of fruit and reducing the dependence on the climate or the availability of pollinators in the area.
In Europe and Asia, the bumblebee used for this task is the subspecies Bombus terrestris. A curious fact: pollination with bumblebees began in the greenhouse production of tomato back in the eighties. It has long since moved to other crops, especially fruit trees, where bumbebees have shown many advantages over bees.
Reasons for pollination with bumblebees instead of bees
Bees are not the only pollinators insects, as seen. Bumblebees are also pollinators. They are different species with many similarities and also significant differences. Let us see them, and finally unveil why bumblebees are the pollinators insects of choice in Lazaya’s plantations of fruit trees in Épila (Aragón)…
- Bees are smaller than bumblebees, which are 2 cm or more and have their bodies covered in hair. These hairs protect them from the cold and allow them to be more agile when collecting pollen, as you will see later.
- Both in one species and the other, females (queens and workers) have a very important role amongst males (drones), which only fertilize the queen bee’s eggs, and then are expelled from the nest. Unfertilized eggs become male drones, while fertilized eggs become female workers or a new generation of queens.
- Bumbleebees do not produce honey and do not have the same hierarchical structure in the hive. Their nest is smaller, usually taking small holes left by rodents.
- A bumblebee queen has a life expectancy of just one year compared to the queen bee, which survives from 3 to 6 years.
- Bumblebees do not leave their venom sac in their victim so that they live on after they sting. Bumblebees are regarded as less aggressive than honeybees or wasps.
- Bumblebees also fly out in poorer weather conditions or poor light and they fly around crops in a more criss-cross pattern.
The 3 biggest advantages of bumblebees…
Bumblebees do not have a communication system like bees. This lack is an important competitive advantage compared to pollination with bees for fruit production. While bees can inform their peers of the presence of different food elsewhere, by inviting the entire colony to abandon the crop that the farmer needs to pollinate, bumblebees do not. If a bumblebee is distracted by another crop, the others do not go en masse to its call.
Bumblebees have fewer problems changing trees than bees and are not limited to a specific area of the crop. This advantage of bumblebees over bees is a determining factor in fruit trees needing cross-pollination (trees that need another to complete the pollination process). In our plantations we use certain varieties of cherry trees that need cross-pollination. This is the case of Rainier, Napoleon and Blanca de Provenza. Only if the bloom of the different varieties were separated from each other, we could have problems of fruit set, with the consequent reduction in production. Only if the blooms of the different varieties were too separated from each other, we could have problems of fruit set, with a reduction in production.
The buzz of worker bumblebees has a very specific function: the vibration is used to shake the anthers loaded with pollen from the flowers. Pollen falls on the bumblebee back and then it is collected with the legs and dragged to the baskets on the hind legs to finally transport the harvest to the hive.
When (and how) are bumblebees placed in the plantations
The bumblebee colonies are introduced 4 to 7 days before the cherry (and other fruit trees) blossom time, so that they can help us to carry out our production of candied fruits in the proper way.
These hives we buy from a specialized company offer us the highest guarantees of quality. They are delivered with enough food to nourish each colony of bumblebees during the transport and storage phase of the boxes. They need an ambient temperature between 10 and 28 ° C.
When the time comes, we distribute the bumblebee colonies all over the land, placing them on a completely horizontal surface, usually pallets. After waiting half an hour for the colony to calm down, we open the flight holes as indicated. We have certain care with hives, such as avoiding direct sunlight or rain on them, opening the ventilation holes on top during warm weather… At sunset, we put the cap back into the flight holes.
The pollination phase begins in the cherry trees, which bloom about 15 days before the peach and the pear tree (between March and April). As we have already mentioned, our cherry trees need cross-pollination, but that is not the case of peach and pear tree. Once the fruit begins to form, it is necessary to carry out a task of eliminating the smallest fruits, leaving only the best shaped in each branch. The thinning-out is a manual work that allows us to obtain the desired size in the harvest, and get the most out of the tree, so that it does not run out in a few seasons. Finally, our figs have 2 crops for year: early figs in July and figs in August/September.
Once they have pollinated a crop, we apply the bumblebee colonies to other fruit crops with sucessive flowering periods. We wait for the sunset, when all the bumblebees return to the hive and then move it to the new site until next day. That way they can cover with their pollination function the different crops that will later supply our preserved fruit factory.
Managing the production of candied fruits in a natural way
The production of candied fruits, delicious and full of the flavors and aromas of our own plantations, is the ultimate goal of our work in Lazaya.
We want that the candied fruits that reaches the tables of so many people around the world, both in pastry preparations or as a fruit salad, have the best quality. And we know it is essential to drive the crops in the traditional way.
The natural pollination of crops is an esssential part of the process, and we want it to remain that way. Managing it with the release of bumblebees in fruit crops, we are able to control the production and the process times for the production of candied fruits in our facilities in Calatayud. We invite you to comment below. If you have any questions about our production of candied fruits, do not hesitate to contact our preserved fruit company. We will be pleased to helping you in finding the product you need.