Submitted to: Journal of Economic Entomology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/15/2000
Publication Date: 12/1/2000
Citation: vol.93, no.6 pgs 1726-1731
Interpretive Summary: A blue orchard bee, Osmia ribifloris, native to the western United States specializes on visiting flowers of the blueberry family. This bee species flies during blueberry bloom in the southeastern U. S., and visits both rabbiteye and southern highbush blueberry flowers. The blue orchard bee satisfactorily subsisted on rabbiteye blueberry pollen and in return adequately pollinated rabbiteye blueberry flowers. Its pollination efficiency was about half that for other blueberry pollinators already established in the Southeast. However, commercially managing blue orchard bees in blueberry fields could bolster their numbers to a point where they provide much needed pollination relief to southern blueberry producers.
Technical Abstract: Inadequate bee pollination limits rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei Reade) production in some areas of the southeastern United States. Honey bees, Apis mellifera L., are currently the only manageable pollinators available for V. ashei pollination. However, a stem-nesting bee, Osmia ribifloris Cockerell, is a tentatively manageable pollinator preferring flowers of blueberry and related plants. Pollination efficiency varied for this bee visiting V. ashei, as 'Tifblue' flowers preferably visited by O. rifibloris produced fewer fruits. Overall pollination efficiency for O. ribifloris was two-thirds that of native southeastern blueberry bees, Habropoda laboriosa (F.). European honey bees, facing negligible competition from southeastern blueberry bees and other native bees, were found to be efficient pollinators of rabbiteye blueberry especially for the cultivars 'Climax' and 'Premier'. Overall, greater pollination efficiency from individual pollinators hastened ripening and in doing so had a greater potential for increasing the value of a rabbiteye blueberry crop.