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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Alternatives to Honeybees for Pollinating Clover (Trifolium L.) Germplasm Accessions

Authors
item Greene, Stephanie
item Bell, Andrew

Submitted to: Agricultural Research Service Publication
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: May 24, 2007
Publication Date: June 24, 2007
Citation: Greene, S.L., Bell, A.B. 2007. Alternatives to Honeybees for Pollinating Clover (Trifolium L.) Germplasm Accessions. In: Proceedings 9th International Pollination Symposium on Plant-Pollinator Relationships - Diversity in Action. p. 64-65.

Interpretive Summary: Our mission is to increase seed of perennial clover (Trifolium L.) species housed in the USDA, ARS National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) germplasm collection. Each season we grow out 100-125 accessions of clover in Prosser, Washington. Historically, honeybees (Apis mellifera L) have been used as pollinators. Although honeybees are productive pollinators, there are disadvantages for using them. The object of this research was to examine the use of five alternative pollinators to determine if they might provide comparable pollination, but at a lower cost. We compared honey bees to bumble bees, leaf cutter bees, lace wings and a no pollinator control, for 4 perennial clover species. Although the honey bee was most effective, the leaf cutter bee was usually as effective. When we compared costs of pollinators, leaf cutters had the lowest cost, $1.50 per cage, compared to $65.00/ cage for honey bees and $22.5/cage for bumble bees. Considering that we routinely increase as many as 100 accessions of Trifolium per year, adopting leaf cutters as a pollinator could save our program over $6000.00 per year.

Technical Abstract: Our mission is to increase seed of perennial clover (Trifolium L.) species housed in the USDA, ARS National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) germplasm collection. Each season we grow out 100-125 accessions of clover in Prosser, Washington. Historically, honeybees (Apis mellifera L) have been used as pollinators. Although honeybees are productive pollinators, there are disadvantages for using them. The object of this research was to examine the use of five alternative pollinators to determine if they might provide comparable pollination, but at a lower cost. We compared Apis mellifera Linnaeus, Bombus occidentalis Greene, Chrysoperla carnea Stevens, Megachile rotundata Fabricius, and no pollinator on 4 perennial clover species. Although A. mellifera was our most effective pollinator, M. rotundata was usually as effective. When we compared costs of pollinators, M. rotundata had the lowest cost. Per cage, Osmia sps. cost $12.00; A. mellifera cost $65.00; M. rotundata cost $1.50 and B. occidentalis cost $22.5. Considering that we routinely increase as many as 100 accessions of Trifolium per year, adopting M. rotundata as a pollinator could save our program over $6000.00 per year.

Last Modified: 10/24/2014
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