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Lisa W. DeVetter, Sean Watkinson, Ramesh Sagili and Timothy Lawrence

in Washington and elsewhere employ honey bees ( Apis mellifera ligustica ) for pollination, which are rented from commercial beekeepers and placed in fields at ≈5% bloom. These rented colonies are particularly valuable for large plantings given native

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Matthew Arrington and Lisa Wasko DeVetter

berry size in highbush blueberry ( MacKenzie, 1997 ). Most commercial producers in Washington and the greater Pacific Northwest (PNW) rent hives of Italian honey bees ( A. mellifera ligustica ) for pollination services. Hives are generally placed in

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S. Alan Walters

Honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) are important pollinators of triploid watermelon [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum & Nakai]. Pistillate (or female) watermelon flowers require multiple honey bee or other wild bee visitations after visiting staminate (or male) flowers for fruit set, and pollination is even more of a concern in triploid watermelon production since staminate flowers contain mostly nonviable pollen. Six honey bee visitation treatments—1) no visitation control, 2) two visits, 3) four visits, 4) eight visits, 5) 16 visits, and 6) open-pollinated control—were evaluated to determine the effectiveness of honey bee pollination on `Millionaire' triploid watermelon fruit set, yield, and quality utilizing `Crimson Sweet' at a 33% pollenizer frequency. `Millionaire' quality characters (hollow heart disorder or percent soluble solids) did not differ (P > 0.05) between honey bee pollination treatments. The open-pollinated control provided the highest fruit set rate (80%) and the greatest triploid watermelon numbers and weights per plot compared to all other honey bee visitation treatments. Fruit set, and fruit numbers and weights per plot increased linearly as number of honey bee visits to pistillate flowers increased from 0 (no visit control) to the open-pollinated control (about 24 visits). This study indicated that between 16 and 24 honey bee visits are required to achieve maximum triploid watermelon fruit set and yields at a 33% pollenizer frequency, which is twice the number of honey bee visits required by seeded watermelons to achieve similar results. This is probably due to many honey bees visiting staminate triploid watermelon flowers (that are in close proximity) before visiting pistillate flowers thus providing mostly nonviable pollen that is useless for fruit set and development. Therefore, more honey bee visits to pistillate triploid watermelon flowers would be required to achieve maximum fruit set and subsequent development compared to seeded watermelons.

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S. Alan Walters* and Bradley H. Taylor

Most small pumpkin growers in Illinois have traditionally relied upon natural insect pollinators to achieve fruit set and development. Many growers fail to understand the importance of pollination and are not aware of the potential benefits of using honey bee colonies to improve pollination and subsequent fruit set of pumpkin. Therefore, a study was conducted over the 2000 and 2001 growing seasons to measure the effectiveness of honey bee colonies on jack-o-lantern pumpkin production. Yields (kg·ha-1) of several cultivars (e.g., `Appalachian' and `Howden') almost doubled when honey bee colonies were present during flowering. Pumpkin weights with the inclusion of honey bees averaged 31,547 kg·ha-1 compared to 22,353 kg·ha-1 for those without honey bees. However, the number of pumpkins per ha was not as drastically influenced by the addition of honey bees; total pumpkin fruits per ha averaged 1,896 with honey bees as compared to 1,704 without honey bees. These results indicate that there were sufficient natural pollinators to induce pumpkin fruit set under field conditions during the study, but fruit size can be significantly increased with the addition of a strong honey bee colony during flowering. Since pumpkins are generally sold on a weight basis, growers should realize greater revenues with the inclusion of honey bee colonies in pumpkin fields.

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S. Alan Walters

Cucurbit vegetable crops, such as watermelon (Citrullus lanatus), require insect pollination for fruit set, which is usually achieved by placing honey bee (Apismellifera) colonies in a field or relying upon natural bee populations. Pistillate (or female) watermelon flowers require multiple honey bee (or other bee) visitations after visiting staminate (or male) flowers for fruit set, and pollination is even more of a concern in triploid watermelon production since staminate flowers contain mostly nonviable pollen. Six honey bee visitation treatments, 1) no visitation control, 2) two visits, 3) four visits, 4) eight visits, 5) 16 visits, and 6) open-pollinated control, were evaluated to determine the effect of honey bee pollination on `Millionaire' triploid watermelon fruit set, yield, and quality utilizing `Crimson Sweet' at a 33% pollinizer frequency. No differences (P> 0.05) between honey bee pollination treatments were observed for `Millionaire' quality characters (hollow heart disorder or percent soluble solids). The lowest pistillate flower abortion rate (20%) and subsequently the greatest triploid watermelon yields (fruit numbers and weights per hectare) occurred with the openpollinated control compared to all other honey bee visitation treatments. Fruit abortion rates decreased linearly, while fruit numbers and weights per hectare increased linearly as number of honey bee visits to pistillate flowers increased from 0 (no visit control) to the open-pollinated control (≈24 visits). This study indicated that >16 honey bee visits are required to achieve maximum triploid watermelon fruit set and yields, which is twice the number of honey bee visits required by diploid watermelons to achieve similar results.

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S. Alan Walters and Bradley H. Taylor

The objective of this study was to measure honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) impact on seed set, fruit set, and yield of jack-o-lantern (Cucurbita pepo L.), large-sized (C. maxima Duch.), and processing pumpkins (C. moschata Duch. ex Poir.) under field conditions. There were sufficient natural pollinators [including bumblebees (Bombus spp.), carpenter bees (Xylocopa spp.), honey bees, and squash bees (Peponapis pruinosa Say)] provided under field conditions to induce fruit set of jack-o-lantern pumpkins as fruit number obtained per hectare was not affected by the addition of a honey bee colony. However, the addition of honey bees did increase fruit number per hectare of the C. moschata and C. maxima cultivars evaluated. Honey bee pollination resulted in larger-sized fruit, increasing individual fruit size of all but small-sized pumpkins (<0.5 kg). Individual pumpkin fruit weights of the Cucurbita pepo, C. moschata, and C. maxima cultivars evaluated increased by about, 26%, 70%, and 78%, respectively, when honey bee colonies were included. Natural pollination was insufficient to stimulate maximum fruit size development and seed number and seed weight per fruit. Although pumpkin fruit set will occur with natural pollinators, the addition of honey bee colonies will ensure the presence of pollinators to maximize fruit size. Since pumpkins are generally sold on a weight basis, growers may generate greater revenues with the addition of honey bee colonies in pumpkin fields.

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Laura C. Merrick, Frank Drummond, Constance Stubbs and Rhonda Weber

Managed and feral honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies have declined dramatically in the past decade due largely to parasitic mites, pesticide contamination, and severe weather. Squash (Cucurbita spp.) is one of many agricultural crops whose production may be negatively effected by decline of these pollinators. A study was conducted on a set of nine farms in Maine to assess the relationship between bee abundance and fruit set of summer and winter squash. The organic and conventional farms targeted in the study included farms with and without the presence of honey bees. With winter squash, fields with more bees tended to exhibit higher fruit set. The average fruit set was slightly higher for farms with honey bees (42%) vs. those without (35%), but both types of farms were similar to that found in controlled hand pollinations (31% on average). In contrast, fruit set for summer squash averaged 95% to 96% for all farms, regardless of the relative abundance of censused bees. Bumble bees (Bombus spp.) were the most abundant wild bees found pollinating squash. Farms with honey bees on average had higher numbers of bees in squash flowers than farms without honey bees, although a difference in preference for floral sex type was detected for bee taxa. Honey bees were much more likely to be found in female flowers, while bumble bees were more abundant in male flowers. Significantly more native bees were found in squash flowers on farms without honey bee hives, although native bees were still present to some extent on farms that were dominated by Apis mellifera.

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M.S. Stanghellini, J.T. Ambrose and J.R. Schultheis

The effectiveness of bumble bees, Bombus impatiens Cresson, and honey bees, Apis mellifera L., on the pollination of cucumber, Cucumis sativus L., and watermelon, Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai, was compared under field conditions. Comparisons were based on fruit abortion rates and seed set as influenced by bee type (honey bee or bumble bee) and the number of bee visits to treatment flowers (1, 6, 12, and 18 bee visits), plus two controls: a no-visit treatment and an open-pollinated (unrestricted visitation) treatment. For both crops, an increased number of bee visits had a strong positive effect on fruit and seed set. All cucumber and watermelon flowers bagged to prevent insect visitation aborted, demonstrating the need for active transfer of pollen between staminate and pistillate flowers. Bumble bee-visited flowers consistently had lower abortion rates and higher seed sets in the cucumber and watermelon studies than did honey bee-visited flowers when compared at the same bee visitation level. Only slight differences in fruit abortion rates were detected between bee types in the watermelon study. However, abortion rates for bumble bee-visited flowers were consistently less than those for honey bee-visited flowers when compared at equal bee visitation levels, with one exception at the 12 bee visit level. As the number of honey bee colonies continues to decline due to parasitic mite pests and based on the data obtained, we conclude that bumble bees have a great potential to serve as a supplemental pollinator for cucumbers, watermelons, and possibly other vine crops, when honey bees available for rental are in limited supply.

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Gregory A. Lang and Robert G. Danka

To study self- and cross-pollination effects on fruit development in southern highbush (mainly Vaccinium corymbosum L.) blueberries, `Sharpblue' plants were caged with honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) and other `Sharpblue' or `Gulfcoast' plants at anthesis. Ratios of pollinizer: fruiting flowers ranged from 2.1 to 4.5. Cross-pollination increased fruit size by ≈14% and seed count by 27% but did not influence fruit set. Overall, seed count decreased by 58% during the 30 days of harvest, but this did not directly affect fruit size. Seed count appeared to influence earliness of ripening as much as it influenced fruit size. Cross-pollination increased the harvest percentage of early-ripening fruits by ≈140% and of premium market fruits (those ≥ 0.75 g) by 13% and decreased the percentage of small fruits by 66%. Consequently, a 43% increase in premium early market crop value (nearly $5000/ha) resulted from optimizing `Sharpblue' cross-pollination.

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Robert G. Danka and Gregory A. Lang

`Gulfcoast' southern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum × V. darrowi) plants were placed in 3 × 6 × 2.5 m net cages with one colony of honey bees per cage and one of three pollinizer treatments: “self (other `Gulfcoast' plants), “cross/highbush” (other southern highbush cultivars), or “cross/rabbiteye” (various rabbiteye blueberry cultivars). In addition to unlimited pollination, bee foraging was controlled on individual flowers by placing small bags over corollas after 0, 1, 5, or 10 visits. Fruit set, fruit weight, fruit development period, and seed number data were taken, as well as data to relate floral morphology to duration of bee foraging. All measures of fruiting increased significantly with increased bee visitation; the threshold for significant gains in production occurred between 1 and 5 visits. Ten visits generally provided a good approximation of unlimited pollination. Set, weight, and earliness of ripening was as good, or better, for fruit derived from rabbiteye pollen compared to fruit from self- or cross/highbush-pollination.