This is a full-on month for pollination, the bees fly every hot, sunny day. The female bee builds cells, packing them with pollen and nectar paste and lays an egg. After hatching the larvae eats this food source then spins a cocoon to begin diapause, the long period of dormancy until the next growing season.
To be pollinated an alfalfa flower needs its keel opened to expose the pollen-covered stamen. This spring loaded stamen mechanically trips, smacking the bee in the head and allowing the bee to access the pollen. Other types of bees do not like receiving this violent knock on the head by the stamen but leafcutter bees do not mind the discomfort and carry on pollinating.
How an Alfalfa Flower is “Tripped” and Pollinated
A week after release of the bees the incubation trays are collected, empty cocoons are discarded into the field. The incubation trays are washed and stacked ready for next year.
As the bees fill the nesting tunnels with cocoons they cap the full tunnels with multiple perfectly round pieces of leaf to keeping parasites from getting in.
After a busy 5 to 8 period of flying, pollinating and laying babies the female bees perish. The two generations of bees have a time overlap of only a few weeks.
After pollination occurs, the alfalfa plants begin to set seed. Curly green seed pods form which then darken upon maturation and contain golden yellow seeds when dry and ripe.
Grain harvest commences in late August and continues through most of September. Typically we combine lentils first, then wheat, oats and canola, it’s always a relief to have the grain in the bin.
We bring in truckloads of nesting blocks and stack them to dry in our warehouse.
Alfalfa seed crops are harvested last, often in October. Our combines have modified concaves for extra threshing and need to be finely tuned to do a good job of separating the fine alfalfa seed. Typically by October 31st the ground is frozen bringing fieldwork to an end.
A sample of leafcutter bee larvae can be professionally x-rayed to provide live counts for marketing purposes.
The alfalfa seed gets cleaned, then it is inoculated and bagged, ready for sale in the spring. Our seed gets delivered to customers across Western Canada.
Cold weather brings the humidity in the warehouse down and dries out the cocoons inside the nesting blocks. Splitting of the blocks begins when the humidity is below 20%, the nests are split and stacked flat ready for punching.