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Are bumble bee colonies in tomato greenhouses obtaining adequate nutrition?

  • Robin Whittington (a1) and Mark L. Winston (a1)

Managed bumble bees are important pollinators of greenhouse crops, but few studies have examined factors that affect the health and productivity of commercially produced colonies. We investigated whether supplemental feeding with diverse pollens affected worker longevity and colony size of Bombus occidentalis Greene (Hymenoptera: Apidae) colonies in tomato (Solanaceae) greenhouses. We found no differences in colony worker populations, brood production, or queen and drone production between supplemented and nonsupplemented treatments, suggesting that B. occidentalis colonies obtain adequate nutrition from the tomato pollen available in greenhouses. Adult populations did not increase in any treatment, but either remained stable or declined after colonies were placed in greenhouses. Because brood-rearing increased in all treatments but adult populations did not, adult mortality due to a non-nutritional factor such as disease or disorientation appears to be an important problem limiting the size of bumble bee colonies, and thus the effectiveness of bumble bees for greenhouse tomato pollination.

Les bourdons d'élevage sont d'importants pollinisateurs des cultures de serre, mais peu d'études se sont intéressées aux facteurs qui affectent la santé et la productivité des colonies produites commercialement. Nous examinons si l'addition de divers pollens affecte la longévité des ouvrières et la taille de la colonie de Bombus occidentalis Greene (Hymenoptera : Apidae) dans des serres de tomates (Solanaceae). Il n'y a pas de différence entre les populations d'ouvrières, la production des couvains et la production des reines et des mâles des colonies alimentées de suppléments de pollen et de celles qui ne le sont pas, ce qui fait croire que les colonies de B. occidentalis obtiennent une alimentation adéquate dans le pollen de tomates disponible dans les serres. Les populations adultes ne s'accroissent dans aucun de traitements : elles demeurent stables ou déclinent après que les colonies sont placées dans les serres. Puisque le couvain augmente dans tous les traitements, mais non les populations adultes, la mortalité des adultes due à une cause non alimentaire, telle que la maladie ou la désorientation, semble être un facteur important qui limite la taille des colonies de bourdons et, par conséquent, l'efficacité des bourdons comme pollinisateurs des tomates en serre.

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The Canadian Entomologist
  • ISSN: 0008-347X
  • EISSN: 1918-3240
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