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Bumble Bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) Activity and Pollination Levels in Commercial Tomato Greenhouses

L. A. Morandin, T. M. Laverty, P. G. Kevan
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1603/0022-0493-94.2.462 462-467 First published online: 1 April 2001


Commercial greenhouse studies were conducted to assess levels of pollination of tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) flowers in relation to bumble bee (Bombus impatiens Cresson) colony activity and colony densities. For the assessment of pollination levels of tomato flowers, five categories were defined based on bruising levels caused by bumble bee pollination. Colony activity was measured as bee trips per ha/d using electric powered photodiode monitors inserted into the hive entrance. Levels of pollination were positively correlated with bee activity levels, up to a mean of ≈400 pollen grains per stigma per day, after which greater activity did not result in further increases in daily pollination levels. Densities of colonies in the commercial greenhouses studied ranged from 7.6 to 19.8 colonies per hectare with a mean of 11.6 ± 0.9. We found that an average activity of 2,000 bee trips per hectare per day was more than adequate to ensure sufficient pollination, and that this level of activity could be achieved with 7–15 colonies per hectare, depending on greenhouse conditions. Greenhouses requiring >15 colonies per hectare to achieve this level of pollination may be able to increase bee activity through alteration of greenhouse conditions. Across 50-m rows of tomato plants, levels of pollination decreased with increasing distance from bee colonies, suggesting that colonies should be evenly distributed throughout the greenhouses.

  • Bumble bee
  • Bombus impatiens
  • pollination levels
  • greenhouse
  • tomato

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