174 USING FERAL AND COMMERCIAL BUMBLE BEES FOR POLLINATION OF CRANBERRIES AND PEARS

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  • 1 Washington State University - Long Beach, Rt 1 Box 570, Long Beach WA 98631

The pollination of cranberries and pears by honey bees is often inadequate. The pollination efficacy of feral (Bombus spp.) and/or commercial bumble bees was evaluated for these crops. Preliminary evaluation of commercial B. vosnesenskii and B. occidentalis hives indicated poor forage activity on pears, but good activity on cranberries. Hive stocking densities of B. occidentalis on cranberries required to match feral Bombus populations was 8-10 hive/ha. Hives required 1-2 weeks in the field prior to full bloom to achieve suitable forage density during bloom. Parasitism of commercial hives by wax moth and bumble bee brood fly was common. Commercial colonies did not appear to be cost effective at this time. Only short-tongued feral Bombus species foraged on cranberries. Acceptance of artificial domiciles by these species was poor. Enhancing feral populations required provision of supplemental food sources and improved nesting habitat. Management of alternative food resources for feral bumble bees will be discussed.

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