Forage quality and quantity affect red mason bees and honeybees differently in flowers of strawberry varieties

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Erica Juel Ahrenfeldt, Lene Sigsgaard, Lise Hansted, Anders Christian Jensen, Torben Bo Toldam‐Andersen

Nectar is a vital source of energy for bees and other pollinators and pollen represents the only source of protein in the diet of bees. Nectar and pollen quality and quantity can therefore affect foraging choices. Strawberry, Fragaria 9 ananassa (Rosaceae), is a flowering crop that requires insect pollination
for the berries to develop optimally. The solitary red mason bee, Osmia bicornis L. (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae), occurs naturally but like the eusocial western honeybee, Apis mellifera mellifera L. (Hymenoptera: Apidae), it is also a commercially reared pollinator used in strawberry production.
We hypothesized that strawberry nectar and pollen quality would affect the foraging choice of these two types of bees. In this study nectar and pollen quality is represented by various levels of sugar and protein content, respectively, as well as the number of open strawberry flowers in the experimental field, would affect the foraging choice of these two types of bees. Consistent with previous studies, we found significant and major differences between strawberry varieties in proportions of sucrose in the nectar sugar and in pollen viability – a proxy for pollen protein content. All measured parameters
had a significant effect on red mason bee visitation frequency. Contrary to expectations, honeybee foraging behavior was only affected by the number of open flowers and not by any of the quality parameters measured.Our findings indicate that redmason bees were capable of assessing nectar and pollen quality and prioritize accordingly. The pattern observed indicates that individual red mason bees changed foraging focus between strawberry varieties depending on whether nectar or pollen was collected. Our results suggest that targeted breeding of varieties toward high levels of nectar sugar and sucrose concentrations and high pollen protein content may increase pollination success from redmason bees and possibly other solitary bees.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEntomologia Experimentalis et Applicata
Volume167
Pages (from-to)763-773
Number of pages11
ISSN0013-8703
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Aug 2019

ID: 227563695