PE 031b: Tomato: Phase 3 of an investigation into poor pollination performance by the native bumblebee, Bombus terrestris audax
- In 2014, Natural England withdrew permission to use non-native bumblebees, Bombus terrestris terrestris (Btt), in unscreened glasshouses and tomato growers must now use the native sub-species, Bombus terrestris audax (Bta) to pollinate crops. As a consequence, many growers have suffered substantial financial losses due to poor fruit set (e.g. up to £50k per hectare reported).
- In 2017, the British Tomato Growers’ Association (TGA) conducted an AHDB-funded survey PE 031 to determine the extent of the problem.
- Leading on from the survey, phase 2 PE 031a a 6 month practical investigation was commissioned which investigated Bta colony life and aspects of Bta behaviour in tomato crops as well a preliminary study of pollen production in small fruiting tomato cultivars.
- The current project, Phase 3 (PE 031b), will monitor many aspects of Bta biology and behaviour in tomato crops using new remote sensing equipment which allows researchers to record Bta within-hive and foraging activity in real time from their own laboratories. In addition, PE031b will quantify the effects of high temperature on pollen production and viability.
DownloadsPE031b Annual Report GS 19April 20 PE031b Annual Report 19 April 20 PE031b Annual Report GS 2020 PE031b Annual Report 2020 PE031b_Final_ReportGS PE031b_Final_Report
About this project
Aim: To reduce financial losses resulting from production deficit, increased labour and excessive hive input caused by the enforced change to Bombus terrestris audax for pollination of UK tomato crops.
- Monitor the activity of Bta hives in commercial crops and correlate changes in hive activity with crop management practice.
- Quantify the effects of high temperatures on within-hive bee behaviour, and pollen production and viability.
- Compare the activity levels of Bta with non-native Bt.