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The effect of nectar production to the gathering behaviour of honeybees and to the foraging activity of wild bees at apple flowers
Published April 19, 2006

Intensity of bee visitation (honeybees and wild bees), foraging behaviour of honeybees and nectar parameters (nectar production, sugar concentration, sugar content in nectars) were inspected at 18 apple cultivars for three consecutive years. Honeybee visitation was calculated to be some 3.07 bee visits at a single apple flower a day but wild be...e activity was very low, only some 0.11 wild bee visits per flower per day.

The nectar production (nectar content) of apple flowers was fairly different according to the cultivars and the nectar production (nectar content) of flowers was negatively correlated with the sugar concentration in nectar. Interestingly, at the majority of the inspected 18 cultivars the nectar production has shown minor or no changes in the morning and at the afternoon. The nectar production (nectar content) of flowers clearly encouraged the total bee activity at the inspected cultivars (r = 0.54). Bees visited abundant nectars with greater sugar concentration most intensely than lees abundant nectars with smaller sugar concentration.

Nectar parameters, however, affected the activity of honeybees with different types of gathering behaviour in different way. More intense activity by pollen gatherer and mixed behaviour honeybees was observed at cultivars producing abundant nectar (pollen gatherers: r = 0.65, mixed behaviour: r = 0.79). The activity of pollen gatherer honeybees and of mixed behaviour bees, on the other hand, was negatively correlated to the sugar concentration in nectar (pollen gatherers: r = -0.51, mixed behaviour: r = -0.73). This can be explained by the fact that their behaviour was much more affected by the amount of pollen than by any nectar parameters. Accordingly, "mixed behaviour honeybees" should probably rather be called as "pollen gatherers with nectar load" instead of "nectar gatherers with pollen load", as widely used in literature. The activity of ineffective side worker nectar gatherers was greatly encouraged by the sugar concentration in nectar (p = 0.63), similarly to the pure (top) nectar gatherer honeybees (r = 0.72). There was a negative relationship between the nectar production (nectar content) of flowers and the activity of these behaviour classes (nectar gatherers: r = -0.47, side workers: r = -0.36).

Concluding the findings we can state that the activity of pollen gatherers and mixed behaviour honeybees is strongly encouraged by greater nectar production (greater nectar content) of apple flowers. Their activity, however, is mostly dependent firstly on the amount of pollen. This is the reason why the sugar concentration is in a negative relationship to the activity of pure pollen gatherers and mixed behaviour bee. On the other hand, pure nectar gatherers and side worker nectar gatherers are greatly encouraged by the sugar concentration of apple nectar the amount of nectar was not a definite influence on their activity.

Side worker honeybees occurred at each cultivar inspected, however, their ratio varied widely among cultivars. So we can draw the conclusion that, in contradiction with earlier believes, side worker nectar gathering is a general phenomenon at apple flowers. The activity of side workers depends first of all on the relative position of stamens and petals; however, low sugar concentration of nectars can probably moderate their activity but probably do not affect pollen gatherers and mixed behaviour bees.

Wild bee visitation was very low; the wild bee species observed (Osmia cornuta, Andrena flavipes, Anthophora acervorum, Bombus terrestris, Bombus lapidarius and Halictus simplex) comprised some 3.44 per cent of the total bee visitation at apple flowers only. Wild bee visitation was in a positive correlation with the nectar production (nectar amount) of flowers (r = 0,4) and with the sugar content of nectar (r = 0.46) but it was negatively correlated with the sugar concentration in nectar (r = -0,27).

Our result calls the attention to the importance of nectar parameters in the effective honeybee pollination of apple plantations. Most effective pollinating activity of honeybees can be expected in plantations with cultivars of high nectar production because this feature seem so encourage the activity of those behaviour classes (pure pollen gatherers and mixed behaviour bees) that are the most effective pollinating agents among honeybees.

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Effect of intensity of bee visitation and the foraging behaviour of honeybees on the fruit set and yield of apple (Malus domestica Borkh.)
Published March 14, 2005

Based on the results of our experiments, both the relative and the effective intensity of bee visitation were rather different depending on the cultivars as well as the time of the day. While it varied between relatively extreme values (40-80%) in the morning for the varieties examined, there were much smaller differences between the intensity ...of bee visitation at the afternoon, because the relative bee visitation attained 70-90% at each cultivar. These results showed that the differences arising from intensity of bee visitation of different cultivars should be taken into consideration more carefully in the morning in orchard planning and in estimating the number of honeybee colonies required.

The results showed that the greatest percentage of fruit set and the highest number of viable seeds per fruit were measured on branches of those cultivars that were most frequently visited by pure pollen gatherer bees as well as by bees collecting both nectar and pollen (mixed behaviour). The effect of pure pollen gatherers and of bees with mixed behaviour was highly significant from the statistical point of view on the fruit set and the number of viable seeds per fruit.

Those bees that were sucking nectar only from apple flowers did not proved to be effective pollinators at all. Relationship between their number and the fruit set as well as the number of viable seed per fruit were not significant because the coefficient of correlation was close to nil.

The ratio of side worker nectar gatherers was negatively correlated with the fruit set and the seed content of fruits of apple cultivars examined at both of our experimental sites, at Mosonmagyaróvár and Feketeerdő as well. The presence of side worker nectar gatherers resulted in higher decrease of fruit set and seed content of fruits at Feketeerd6 than at Mosonmagyaróvár, especially in the morning.

The effect of flower visiting intensity by other pollinating insects was found to be fairly variable according to the time of the day. In the morning they had no effect on the fruit set as well as on the seed content of fruits either at Mosonmagyaróvár or at Feketeerdo. However, at the afternoon, when their intensity was greater, the correlation was a bit stronger.

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