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Intended Release and Actual Retention of Alfalfa Leafcutting Bees (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae) for Pollination in Commercial Alfalfa Seed Fields

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Low, medium, and high stocking densities (15,000; 30,000; and 45,000‐50,000 bees per acre, respectively) of Megachile rotundata (F.) (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae), the alfalfa leafcutting bee, were released over 4 yr in three research plots of Utah alfalfa, Medicago sativa L. (Fabaceae), planted at seed-production rates. A low percentage of bees (46‐79% of released) survived the incubation and field-emergence processes; of those bees, the number of females that established at the nesting sites was 25‐100%. Of the three field sites, one site consistently retained more females and produced more completed nests than the other sites, all of which usually had poor female establishment and progeny production. In addition, floral resources were depleted over time, but many flowers remained unvisited over the season. Nest production decreased over time, as numbers of flowers and female bees declined. Significant positive relationships were found between the intended stocking densities and 1) the number of females that actually survived incubation and field emergence and 2) the number of females that established nests. The number of females that established nests was positively affected by the number of females that survived to emerge in the field. The percentage of females that established was not significantly affected by the intended number of released bees, countering a prediction that the release of fewer bees would allow more females to establish nests and achieve high reproductive success. For growers, it may be more frugal to use modest numbers of M. rotundata for pollination, because many of the bees at medium and high stocking densities do not nest in grower-provided bee boards.

Keywords: Medicago sativa; Megachile rotundata; Megachilidae; alfalfa-seed production; pollination

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1603/EC12416

Publication date: April 1, 2013

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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