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A question from Gary, WA. “Approximately how many bees do I need to pollinate 17 fruit trees. How many females do you recommend? “
Good fruit production depends on both the health of the tree and good pollination. Good pollination means at least 1-2 visits by bees.
The question of how many bees are needed for pollinating a number of fruit trees is a good question. The answer comes over a number of years. If in successive years fruit production is good and very few fruit are misshapen (because of poor pollination), you have enough bees for the orchard (whatever number you have).
My recommendation is to get 20-60 cocoons and a mason bee home with nesting tunnels in the first year. Learn to look after the bees over the course of a year and see how many cocoons your bees have produced. Besides buying mason bee cocoons, there are a few other ways to augment your mason bee numbers. Set out a series of nests in your neighborhood, and better still at someones place that already has mason bees.
Then watch your fruit production increase often in just one year. A few bees will do a tremendous amount of work, but in poor weather conditions, you need more bees to get to the flowers in the short periods of sunny weather.
Dr Margriet Dogterom