Diurnal activity, floral visitation and pollen deposition by honey bees and bumble bees on field-grown cucumber and watermelon
M S Stanghellini, J Ambrose, J R Schultheis
Honey bees (Apis mellifera) and bumble bees (Bombus impatiens) were compared for three aspects of pollinating behaviour on field-grown cucumber (Cucumis sativus) and watermelon (Citrullus lanatus). We measured: (1), diurnal foraging activity periods (as related to anthesis); (2), floral visitation rates (number of flowers visited per min by individual foragers); and (3), stigmatic pollen deposition (number of pollen grains deposited on stigmas after single bee visits to female flowers). B. impatiens was more effective than A. mellifera for all three parameters on both crops. B. impatiens initiated foraging activity 15--40 min before A. mellifera; both species continued foraging until flowers closed in early afternoon. B. impatiens consistently visited more flowers per min (P < 0 .001) and deposited equal or greater amounts of pollen (P < 0.001) than A. mellifera, particularly during the initial hours of floral anthesis which is when these crops are most receptive to pollination. The data additionally suggest that researchers evaluating different pollinator candidates should consider time-of-day effects when comparing pollen deposition rates between pollinators, as time-of-day had a marked influence on pollen deposition in these studies.