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A visit to Biobest:

This is how your bumblebees and beneficials are made

Recently we were welcomed by Biobest for a tour at their Belgian headquarters in Westerlo. In a previously published article we discussed the company's past, present and future. In this article, Biobest's Plant Operations Manager Ramon van der Kruijs shows us around and explains the importance of the tiniest details to produce millions of highly efficient insects such as bumblebees, macrolophus, swirskii and orius. 

Marc Mertens, Global sales director, and Ramon van der Kruijs, Plant operations manager, proudly showing us what Biobest is known for; the famous bumblebee hive in the purple and green colors. On a weekly basis, almost 10,000 of these hives leave their factory in Belgium.

The production of every Biobest hive starts with a single queen. At the beginning of the cycle, the fairly large queens are in a state of hibernation and carry a lot of sperm. 

The queen is placed in a special breeding box, together with a bit of pollen and a fresh supply of sugar water. This is enough for the queen to start building her hive and lay her eggs.

Within a few weeks, the eggs have hatched into female worker bees. Only the fertilized eggs will produce useful worker bees, those unfertilized will turn into a drone, a male bee. For greenhouse growers, these drones are completely useless, as they do not have stingers and do not gather nectar and pollen. A drone's primary role is to mate with a fertile queen. Biobest invested a lot in their know-how to create successful hives with a high ratio of female worker bees. "That is the trick of the trade", explained Van der Kruijs.

The hives are stored in large climate rooms to simulate natural seasons. This enables Biobest to produce bumblebees year-round.

Workers carry out inspections of the hives to determine the quality of the nest and bring in extra pollen or sugar water when required. Hives with not enough workers or too many drones are taken out of production. 

A team of six researchers perform regular quality checks on the batches with beneficial insects and hives. On the picture, a Biobest lab technician performs several checks on a batch of bumblebees to determine their health and physical state. 

In order to guarantee the quality of their solutions, checks are frequently performed. Samples from beneficials produced in Westerlo, but also from other Biobest production locations elsewhere in the world, are all subject to an extensive quality control check at the Belgian laboratory. 

Biobest furthermore tries to automate wherever possible. Since they are working with living insects, this is not always easy to accomplish. However, this machine automatically fills thousands of sachets per minute with prey mites and predatory mites for the ABS-System.

Van der Kruijs shows us the requirements a hive needs to make the bumblebees as comfortable as possible.

Ready to ship! Biobest produces bumblebees and beneficial insects for application all over the world. The most commonly used bumblebee is the Bombus terrestris, which is native to the most important European markets. For other markets that require different species, Biobest has different species available, such as the Bombus Ignitus for Asia, the Bombus Impatiens for North America, the Bombus Canariensis for the Canary Islands and the Bombus terrestris audax, pictured here. This species is native to the UK. 

For more information
Biobest Belgium NV
Ilse Velden 18
2260 Westerlo - Belgium
T +32 14 25 79 80
F +32 14 25 79 82
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