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Native redbuds feed native bees

Making It Grow Radio Minute

Cercis canadensis, our native eastern redbud, is an early bloomer. With protein rich pollen and sweet nectar, it’s an important food source for many native bees, including the blueberry bumble bee. Blueberries, Vaccinium species, are native to North America, and breeding and selection have made them an important crop for growers. Pollination is somewhat tricky as blueberry pollen is sticky and even if it fell on its own, it wouldn’t land on the female stigma. Buzz pollination, when a bee uses its powerful flight muscles to vibrate the flower, results in the insect’s being dusted with pollen which it transfer to female flowers while foraging. Honeybees don’t employ buzz pollination, and although used by growers are not the most effective for blueberry pollination. Fortunately, early emerging blueberry bumblebees and other native pollinators are nourished by redbuds.

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Amanda McNulty is a Clemson University Extension Horticulture agent and the host of South Carolina ETV’s Making It Grow! gardening program. She studied horticulture at Clemson University as a non-traditional student. “I’m so fortunate that my early attempts at getting a degree got side tracked as I’m a lot better at getting dirty in the garden than practicing diplomacy!” McNulty also studied at South Carolina State University and earned a graduate degree in teaching there.