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.
During a four yeas long experiment a simple bee shelterswas found to be a propermethod to increase the size ofmixed natural populations of the early season Osmia cornuta and O. rufa under practical farm conditions. Instead of the number of pesticide applications the earliness of the flowering of the fruit species in the orchards was found to be... themost important factor in the rate of acceptance of reed as nestingmediumby Osmias in the bee shelter. This relationship was negative and highly significant (r = –0.829, p<0.001). This means that much higher acceptance of artificial nestingmedia in bee shelters and consequentlymuch higher population increase of the two early seasonmason bee species can be expected in orchards with early than with late flowering fruit species. Mixed orchards or early flowering orchards surrounded by other orchards falling in bloom later consecutively may also be much favourable to mason bees because they can find continuous food (pollen) supply there for a much longer time during their period of activity than in orchards planted with a single fruit species and being apart from orchards of other fruit species.
Preliminary field management studies were made to increase the population density of native early spring Osmia species (O. cornuta, O. rufa) at fruit tree plantations in Hungary. Initial bee activity around artificial nesting media and the population increase during consecutive years were much smaller at large commercial fruit... orchards under intense chemical plant protection than in small mixed fruit plantation with moderate or low pesticide usage. Osmias accepted all the four kinds of tested artificial nesting media (reed, bamboo rods, hardwood blocks and light walling blocks with drilled holes). Reed provided the best nesting conditions so it is suggested to be used in the practice. Calculations showed that under favourable conditions more than 50 to 100 thousand incoming flights (arrivals or landings) occurred in a single day around a single bee shelter and this makes enormous number of possible bee visits at fruit tree flowers. For this reason it is strongly recommended to put simple bee shelters filled with artificial nesting media into fruit orchards. Experiences show that the population sizes of Osmias increase during consecutive years without any specific additional maintenance except providing shelters and nesting media.