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S. Wolf, Y. Lensky, and N. Paldi

Fruit and seed set in insect-pollinated agricultural crops rely primarily on honeybees because of their ease of management and transportation. In many fruit and vegetable crops, the number of bee visitations can be the limiting step in obtaining optimal yield. Increasing the attractiveness of flowers to honeybees could, therefore, provide a useful means of improving fruit yield and seed production. Genetic variability in attractiveness to honeybees was found within the genus Citrullus. The number of daily visits per flower ranged from six to 12 among cultivars. Moreover, most of the visits to the more attractive cultivars occurred in the first hour of bee activity, whereas visits to the less attractive cultivars started later in the morning. A positive relationship was found between the frequency of bee visitations and seed number per fruit. Analyses of floral attributes indicated no genetic variability in flower size, amount of pollen grains, or nectar volume; however, differences were observed in the concentration of sucrose and total sugars in the nectar. A positive relationship was found between attractiveness to bees and nectar sugar concentration, suggesting that this characteristic is one of the parameters responsible for variability in attractiveness to honeybees.