Field observations were made on the fl ower visiting behaviour of honeybee foragers in commercial fruit plantations of apricot, Japanese plums, sour cherry, apple and pear. The number of inspected cultivars was 18. The intensity of fl ower visiting by honey bees was markedly different when data of different fruit species are compared. Most inte...nse bee activity was registered on the Japanese plums, somewhat less on apricots, the intensity diminished signifi cantly with apples and pears. Our data presented on the honeybee visitation of Japanese plums can be regarded as new fi nding because no information has been available so far on the relative attractiveness of this fruit species compared to European fruit tree species. Japanese plums were somewhat more attractive to honeybees than apricot and much more attractive than sour cherry, apple and pear. The behaviour of honeybees as visiting the blooming trees displayed specifi c differences according to the fruit species (apricot, sour cherry, pear), which coincide largely with earlier results. It is notable that the fl ower visiting behaviour of honeybees on Japanese plums has been found to be fairly similar to the same on European plums.
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.
The effect of the partial and/or complete limitation of the insect (bee) pollination period was studied in three consecutive years at 6 quince cultivars. Quince is greatly sensitive to the limitation. Complete limitation of insect pollination resulted in no yield and also a partial limitation of the insect pollination period (exclusion of the b...ees at the first or at the second half of the blooming) depressed the final set and the yield by 60-70% at least or more, sometimes down to no yield. No real correlation was found between the mean mass of fruits and the fruit set. The mass of fruit seems to be rather a character of the cultivars. A loose but significant correlation was established between the intensity of honeybee visitation and the consequent yield of quince. As much as some 4-5 and 8-10 honeybee visits are needed a day on one flower to achieve the required optimal fruit set that has been declared to be 20-25% for quince in the literature. These are extremely high bee visitation figures, accordingly, no doubt the commercial quince plantations require much higher number of honeybee colonies than other temperate zone fruit tree species to supplementary pollination
Apricot yields are highly variable according to the season. The variation is caused mainly by the adversities during the critical processes of floral biology, i.e. blooming and fertilisation. On the basis of information concerning blooming time and mutual compatibility relations of apricot varieties a system of securing regular and adequate yie...lds has been developed.
Winter frosts of the continental type are well tolerated by most of the apricots, however, after the end of rest period, flower buds are loosing frost tolerance, 'rapidly.
Being one of the fruit species blooming earliest during the early spring, apricot start to bloom in Hungary around the end of March or early April as a mean of many years, but it also happened, exceptionally that apricot started to bloom at February 20 (at Letenye South Hungary). The early season, exposes the floral organs to frost injuries. As a consequence, apricot orchards on the Great Plain produce low yields in 3 years, intermediate yields in other 3 years out of a ten-year-period.
Moreover, weather conditions during the blooming period are often unfavourable for pollination. Cool, windy and rainy weather prevents the flight of insects and on the other hand, warm spells shorten the blooming process, nectarines and stigmata get dry and the female gametes loose viability before effective pollination occurres.
The fertility of individual cultivars are meeting different obstacles. Apricot cultivars differ greatly in the rate of flowers bearing underdeveloped pistils, which may attain even 60% (e.g. Orangered). New commercial cultivars are often self-incompatible. Local varieties of that type in Hungary are the „óriás" varieties (e.g. Ceglédi óriás, Szegedi mammut), and the new hybrid Ceglédi Piroska. Many of the cultivars are variable in their self-fertility (partially self-fertile): Budapest, Harmat, Korai piros, Mandulakajszi.
Inter-incompatibility is also known in apricots. The „óriás " varieties do not fertilise each other. During the growth of fruits, cool spells (2-4 °C) caused severe fruit shed in Ceglédi óriás.
Apricot flowers produce pollen and nectar at average rates related to other fruit species, thus bees are attracted sufficiently. Bee visits are very variable according to growing site and season. Most of the bees are pollen gatherers but sometimes nectar suckers are in majority. Bee pollination is necessary not only for the self-incompatible varieties but also to enhance the yield of self-fertile varieties.
Taking the blooming and fertility relations of the cultivars into account, plantations should not exceed two rows to a particular self-incompatible varieties, and possibly two different polliniser varieties are suggested to be planted as flanking the block in question.
In commercial plantations 2 to 4 bee colonies per hectare are proposed to move for the whole blooming period.
Pál Maliga founded the Hungarian research in floral biology of fruit species during his more than forty-year-long carrier. Almost all pome and stone fruit species have been covered by his activities, but he also dealt with the fertility of walnut and chestnut. Regularities have been revealed and the methodical studies opened the way to approac...h and elaborate alternatives for the association of varieties in planning high yielding commercial plantations. In his breeding activity the choice of crossing parental varieties was based on the knowledge in fertility relations. The obtained sour cherry varieties represent the world-wide maximum quality, reliability and security of yields. Hungarian renewed sour cherry cultivation owes its fame and prosperity to those varieties, nevertheless also to the radical knowledge of the biological bases of fertility.
Earlier studies concerning self-, free- and cross- fertilization of apricot varieties grown in Hungary, proved the existence of self-sterile as well as self-fertile varieties within the recommended assortment. The self-sterile and partially self-fertile varieties should be planted in association with polliniser varieties, only. The present pape...r reports about the yields of trees of the widely grown, self-sterile local variety, Ceglédi óriás (Giant of Cegléd), depending on the distance of adequate polliniser trees. In the univarietal, 27 row-wide block of the relevant variety, an efficient polliniser, Magyar kajszi was planted to the 10th and 19th row. In the close vicinity, another block of polliniser, Rózsakajszi C. 320 was located. The number of fruits set per tree has been counted or estimated in two consecutive years. In both seasons, the yield of the Ceglédi óriás trees diminished with the growing distance from the nearest polliniser trees. Those trees in the center of the block, between the two (10th and 19th) rows of Magyar kajszi bore acceptable yield (40 kg/tree in 1987), however, considerable reduction of the number of the fruits set was stated already in the 4-5th row from the polliniser away. Similar gradient of fruit set was apparent in relation to the neighbouring block of Rózsakajszi C 320. The beneficial effect of the vicinity of polliniser varieties was obvious as far as the distance of the 10th row. Taking into consideration the self-sterility, the early blooming time and the poor fertilization of the variety Ceglédi óriás, a planting design of associating it with at least two polliniser varieties (e.g. Gönci magyar kajszi and Ceglédi bíbor) is highly recommended. On the basis also of earlier results, a proposal has been developed for the association of apricot varieties as recommendations for optimising yields. Blooming time, fertilizing potential, schedule of the picking season and market possibilities have to be considered simultaneously.