Bumblebees for Pollination

Bombus impatiens is a species of bumblebee used to pollinate many greenhouse and outdoor crops. For greenhouses, bumblebees are mostly used for tomato, cucumber, pepper, and other vegetable crops. Outdoors, they’re mainly used for berries or various types of squash.

The main reason they are utilized is to save time. In most cases, the amount of manual labor required to hand-pollinate is far too high, so bees are used instead. Hives are exclusively designed for crop pollination and are completely self-sustaining.

Bumblebees should be utilized shortly after the first flowers appear. Normal greenhouse conditions should be adequate to support the hive, but significantly warmer temperatures could hamper activity. Cooler temperatures may slow the bees down but shouldn’t completely stop them.

If used outdoors, the hive should be protected from the elements. A half-sheet of plywood over the top of it should work well. Indoors, hives should be off the ground, in a place where they won’t be disturbed (no fans blowing on them, no irrigation hitting them, etc.). Be sure that ants cannot access the hive. Some growers will use sticky tape or other type of sticky compound wrapped around whatever the hive is sitting on.

It is advisable to not open the doors to the hive until about an hour after placing in the crop. The bees may be agitated from all the movement. An hour should be sufficient time for them to settle down.

Bumblebees are docile if undisturbed, but caution should be used around them, especially if allergic to bee stings. Try not to make sudden movements around them, and don’t wear bright clothing. The bees could be attracted to the colors. If you give them space, they should leave you alone.

Bombus impatiens can be used in all states except Oregon (where they are prohibited), Washington (where they can be used in screened structures only), and in California (where growers need a state-issued permit). Get more info about the latter at CA Dept. of Food and Ag. The California State Permit in question is Form 66-026.

Release Rates for Bombus impatiens

ClassificationRelease Information
Medium HiveThis hive consists of a medium sized colony of the bumblebees. At delivery it contains more than 80 workers. Its pollination activity lasts 4 to 6 weeks.
Standard HiveThis hive consists of a standard sized colony of the bumblebees. At delivery it contains more than 80 workers. Its pollination activity lasts 6 to 8 weeks.

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