Did you know, a colony consists of 40 000 bees or more. Only one third of these forage outside the hive, whilst the others commit their lives to cleaning and guarding the hive and nourishing the larvae. Here’s a fun fact, do you know that only the female bees have a stinger! Therefore, male bees cannot sting you. However, the males tend to stay in the hives most of their lives, so chances are if you encounter a bee, she’s female and she can sting! Each bee can carry up to 60mg of nectar on their small bodies. The nectar is preserved through dehydration and enzyme addition. And to put into perspective how hard these bees must work; it takes over 1000 flower visits for a bee to produce just a single gram of honey.
The avocado is no exception, with commercial production relying heavily on the introduction of honeybees into avocado orchards. The avocado flower is adapted for pollination by most flying insects due to its open morphology and the easy access to the nectar. Therefore, flies, wasps, honeybees, stingless bees, bumblebees and other insects are potential pollinators of the avocado flower. However, the honeybee is the only commercially introduced pollinator in South African avocado orchards. Experts say an avocado orchard should have approximately 200 000 bees per hectare for decent pollination.
The importance of honeybees has never been more apparent than it is now, with climate change and chemical pollution contributing towards the dwindling populations. Avocado farmers are perfectly positioned to contribute towards creating safe havens for honeybees in their orchards. Not only can they pollinate your flowers, but produce honey too! Farmers could consider beekeeping as a side business, which can boost their income year-round through honey sales. Given the public frenzy over the avocado, who could resist ‘avocado honey’. Also, training workers in beekeeping can also contribute to skills development within the workforce, which can further empower employees and small-scale farmers.
Learn more about the flowering pattern of avocado trees.