Farming Practices Influence Wild Pollinator Populations on Squash and Pumpkin

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Recent declines in managed honey bee, Apis mellifera L., colonies have increased interest in the current and potential contribution of wild bee populations to the pollination of agricultural crops. Because wild bees often live in agricultural fields, their population density and contribution to crop pollination may be influenced by farming practices, especially those used to reduce the populations of other insects. We took a census of pollinators of squash and pumpkin at 25 farms in Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland to see whether pollinator abundance was related to farming practices. The main pollinators were Peponapis pruinosa Say; honey bees, and bumble bees (Bombus spp.). The squash bee was the most abundant pollinator on squash and pumpkin, occurring at 23 of 25 farms in population densities that were commonly several times higher than that of other pollinators. Squash bee density was related to tillage practices: no-tillage farms hosted three times as great a density of squash bees as tilled farms. Pollinator density was not related to pesticide use. Honey bee density on squash and pumpkin was not related to the presence of managed honey bee colonies on farms. Farms with colonies did not have more honey bees per flower than farms that did not keep honey bees, probably reflecting the lack of affinity of honey bees for these crops. Future research should examine the economic impacts of managing farms in ways that promote pollinators, particularly pollinators of crops that are not well served by managed honey bee colonies.

Keywords: pollination; pumpkin; squash; sustainable agriculture; tillage

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2005

More about this publication?
  • Journal of Economic Entomology is published bimonthly in February, April, June, August, October, and December. The journal publishes articles on the economic significance of insects and is divided into the following sections: apiculture & social insects; arthropods in relation to plant disease; forum; insecticide resistance and resistance management; ecotoxicology; biological and microbial control; ecology and behavior; sampling and biostatistics; household and structural insects; medical entomology; molecular entomology; veterinary entomology; forest entomology; horticultural entomology; field and forage crops, and small grains; stored-product; commodity treatment and quarantine entomology; and plant resistance. In addition to research papers, Journal of Economic Entomology publishes Letters to the Editor, interpretive articles in a Forum section, Short Communications, Rapid Communications, and Book Reviews.
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