Population density may affect solitary bee maternal resource allocation. The number of Megachile rotundata (F.), alfalfa leafcutting bee, females released for seed production of Medicago sativa L., alfalfa, may limit flower availability for nest provisioning. In turn, pollinator abundance also may affect crop yield. The M. sativa pollination system presents an opportunity to test for effects of density dependence and maternal manipulation on M. rotundata reproduction. A multiyear study was performed on M. sativa fields upon which M. rotundata densities were altered to induce low, medium, and high density situations. Numbers of adult bees and open flowers were recorded weekly; bee reproduction variables were collected once. Fields varied in plant performance for each site and year, and the intended bee densities were not realized. Therefore, the variable density index (DI) was derived to describe the number of female bees per area of flowers over the study period. As DI increased, percentages of pollinated flowers, established females, and healthy brood significantly increased, and the number of pollinated flowers per female and of dead or diseased brood significantly decreased. Sex ratio was significantly more female biased as DI increased. Overwintered offspring weights were similar regardless of DI, but significantly differed by year for both sexes, and for males also by field and year × field interaction. Overall, resource limitation was not found in this field study. Other density-dependent factors may have induced a bee dispersal response soon after bees were released in the fields that circumvented the need for, or impact of, maternal manipulation.
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Vol. 44 • No. 4