Pollination services provided by managed bees are essential for California almond (Prunus dulcis Mill.; Rosales: Rosaceae) production. Currently, pollination needs are met by rented or owned Apis mellifera L. (Hymenoptera: Apidae; honey bee) colonies. Excessive demand on a challenged A. mellifera industry to provide strong colonies in early spring has caused sharp increases in rental prices over the past decade, inviting the consideration of alternative pollinators in addition to, or in place of, A. mellifera. Osmia lignaria Say (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae; the blue orchard bee) is an excellent pollinator of fruit and nut trees, but its pollination impacts when used in tandem with A. mellifera have yet to be evaluated in commercial almond orchards. A 2-yr study was conducted in California orchards to compare almond pollination and production using A. mellifera as sole pollinator to an alternative practice of adding O. lignaria as a co-pollinator with A. mellifera. Almond orchard managerial decisions, such as for pesticide use and irrigation intensity, vary between almond growing regions because of local climates. Therefore, both north-central and southern sites of California's San Joaquin Valley are represented. We compared bee visitation, nut set, and nut yield between orchards and between tree rows within orchards. Also, O. lignaria reproductive success was recorded to assure that these bees remained in the orchards as pollinators and to assess the ability to sustain these bees under regional orchard conditions. We demonstrated that augmenting large commercial almond orchards with O. lignaria can significantly increase nut set and sometimes nut yield in both regions evaluated.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Insect Science