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11 February 2019 Association Between Density of Foraging Bees and Fruit Set in Commercial Fields of Rabbiteye Blueberries (Ericales: Ericaceae) in Louisiana and Mississippi
Robert G. Danka, Blair J. Sampson, José D. Villa
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Field-scale data on the relationship between pollinator activity and fruit set are scarce for rabbiteye blueberries (Vaccinium virgatum Aiton). We measured the densities of Apis mellifera L. (Hymenoptera: Apidae), Habropoda laboriosa F. (Hymenoptera: Apidae), Bombus Latreille (Hymenoptera: Apidae) spp., and Xylocopa virginica L. (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in 7–21 commercial fields during each of 3 yr in Louisiana and Mississippi. Foraging bees were counted on 10 ‘Tifblue’ bushes per field on 2 d during bloom, and the density of bees per flower was calculated based on the number of flowers open during the counts. Fruit set was measured 30 d after bloom. The impact of foraging activity on fruit set was inconsistent when densities of either all foragers or foragers of individual taxa were considered. Strong associations were observed only in 2001, with fruit set increased by H. laboriosa and Bombus and with a weaker contribution by A. mellifera. Floral robbery by X. virginica had no measurable negative effects. Populations of H. laboriosa were more consistent than those of other bees across sites. Managed colonies of A. mellifera were added at two densities (12.5 or 2.5 colonies per hectare) in seven fields each in 2001. These supplemental bees did not result in greater forager densities or fruit set in stocked fields. The observations show the challenge of field-scale pollination tests but provide an initial framework for rabbiteye blueberry growers to assess the availability of foraging bees early in bloom to help decide whether to add supplemental A. mellifera to try to enhance pollination if populations of non-Apis bees are low.

© The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Entomological Society of America. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:
Robert G. Danka, Blair J. Sampson, and José D. Villa "Association Between Density of Foraging Bees and Fruit Set in Commercial Fields of Rabbiteye Blueberries (Ericales: Ericaceae) in Louisiana and Mississippi," Journal of Economic Entomology 112(3), 1322-1326, (11 February 2019).
Received: 26 September 2018; Accepted: 21 December 2018; Published: 11 February 2019

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Apis mellifera
Habropoda laboriosa
Vaccinium virgatum
Xylocopa virginica
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