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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 561: VIII International Symposium on Pollination - Pollination: Integrator of Crops and Native Plant Systems

HONEY BEE MANAGEMENT AND WILD BEES FOR POLLINATION OF HYBRID ONION SEED

Authors:   D.F. Mayer, J.D. Lunden
Keywords:   onion, Allium cepa, pollination, honeybees, wild bees
Abstract:
Onion (Allium cepa L.) seed yields, particularly hybrid seed, are heavily dependent on bee pollinator activity for pollination, seed set and adequate yields. In commercial production of seed, the industry depends on the honey bee (Apis mellifera L.) for pollination. Mere placement of colonies of honey bees in or adjacent to onion seed fields does not guarantee bees will work the field. Onion seed yields vary enormously depending on the number of honey bees accomplishing pollination.
We tested a number of different manipulations and management techniques in commercial hybrid onion seed fields to increase pollinating honey bees and improve yields.
Application of materials to attract more honey bees into the fields was tested using BeeScent, Bee-Here, Fruit Boost and Jack Daniels whiskey. Also, Envirpel applied to blooming alfalfa did not repel bees forcing them to forage on an adjacent onion field.
We investigated serial introduction of honey bee colonies into the same onion field, feeding honey bee colonies onion syrup, stripping colonies of nectar and pollen, using the Hi-Line onion- collecting honey bee strain, and conducted preliminary selections for colonies that preferred foraging on onion. Experiments with the onion crop were overhead irrigation to dilute the nectar and interplanting onion seed with alfalfa to attract bees to the field.
We investigated bumble bees (Bombus occidentalis Greene), alfalfa leafcutter bees (Megachile rotundata (Fabr.)), the blue orchard mason bee (Osmia lignaria Say), the horned mason bee (Osmia cornifons) and the alkali bee (Nomia melanderi Cockerell) for pollination of onion seed.
None of the experiments effectively increased numbers of honey bees nor the wild bees, and none greatly improved onion seed yield.
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