When you think of what bees produce, you probably think of honey. But bees also indirectly produce one-third of the common fruits and vegetables we eat, via pollination. Getting good crops of avocados in Kenya is not always easy, and pollination is part of the problem. Avocado growers find it hard to provide a regular supply of fruit because the trees only give a good crop every second year. However, if we all kept bees, avocado production can increase tremendously, below is an explanation on why bees are necessary.
While other fruits have simple ways of flowering and self pollination, avocados are different. Each avocado tree can be covered by almost hundreds of thousands of tiny flowers. Flowering process is complex and generally occurs over a two-day period. Under normal climatic conditions, the flower first opens in the female stage, when the stigma (the female part of the flower) is receptive. The flower closes overnight and on the second day the male stage occurs when the pollen is shed. Overlap between male and female phases may also occur under certain climatic conditions. Due to the difference in timing of the female and male stages, therefore, a means of transferring pollen from an individual flower to another flower (within the same tree or adjacent trees) is required. The avocado flower, therefore, requires a vector to effect pollination, which is a necessary first step in the process of fruit set. A vector is an external agent that is capable of causing the transfer of pollen grains from the anthers (the pollen bearing male part of the flower) to the stigma. Numerous pollen grains need to be deposited onto the individual stigmas for the avocado tree to have the potential for a good crop. The avocado flower is adapted to visitation by most flying insects as is evident by its open morphology and the easy access to the nectar. Therefore, flies, wasps, honey bees, stingless bees, bumblebees and other insects are potential pollinators of the avocado flower. To date, the honey bee has been the only commercially introduced pollinator in avocado orchards.
Why you Should Plant Different Cultivars (Hass and Fuerte avocados)
Avocados flowers are pollinated by insects, so growers bring honey bee hives into the orchard in the flowering season. Most avocado orchards have two different cultivars so that, when some trees have flowers at the female stage, other trees have male flowers. This means the bees need to collect pollen from male flowers of one cultivar (called the polleniser) and transfer it to females of another cultivar.
Avocado trees may have hundreds of thousands of flowers, but for some reason, not many of them produce fruit.
Preparation of Bees
For a hive to be able to adequately pollinate fruit blossom, it must be above certain strength in bee numbers. It is fundamentally difficult to build a population of honey bees during cool conditions, particularly if there are no naturally occurring sources of pollen and nectar. Thus to have healthy bees early in the season, for avocados pollination, the preparation and management of bees should be a major priority between march and June.
Attractiveness, Nutritional Value Of Pollen And Nectar
Honey bees visit both female- and male-stage avocado flowers. Usually, they collect nectar from both flower stages and pollen from the male stage. However, they sometimes collect pollen only and will not visit the female flowers. The attractiveness of the avocado flower to honey bees is low, in comparison to the flowers of numerous species that may be in bloom simultaneously, such as various citrus species and species. In many cases, foraging honey bees from hives that were placed in the orchard for pollination
purposes abandon the avocado flowers in favor of competing bloom. It is quite evident, therefore, that the avocado flowers are not as well adapted to supply the honey bees? needs, when compared to the flowers of many other species.
Availability Of Bees For Pollination
Avocado blossom coincides with a number of nectar-producing flowering eucalyptus species that have the potential to provide alternative economic gains for the beekeeper in the form of honey crops.
Any serious avocado farmer who wants to make good money must keep bees. The bees not only help in increasing production, sweetness and size of fruits but also produce pure organic honey every three months.