A honey bee (Apis mellifera) forages on blueberry flowers. While the bee forages on one annual in a cluster, the rear leg of the bee is contacting the stigma of a altered annual in the cluster, illustrating a behavior that permits honey bees to auspiciously serve as pollinators of highbush blueberry crops. (Photo credit: George Hoffman, Ph.D.)
Blueberry plants depend on insects for their pollination. The U.S. produces added than 700 actor pounds of highbush blueberries per year, so blueberry pollination is important economically as able-bodied as ecologically. Because blueberry flowers are alarm shaped, with their autogenous recessed in a tube of petals, able absolution of pollen from the flowers depends on an insect behavior of rapidly cavernous addition muscles, alleged fizz pollination. Honey bees (Apis mellifera) do not accomplish fizz pollination, and appropriately are anticipation to be inefficient as blueberry pollinators. Despite this, all ample blueberry farms of bristles or added acreage hire honey bee hives, and the honey bees auspiciously aid in crop pollination.
To actuate the mechanisms with which honey bees accomplish acknowledged blueberry pollination, George Hoffman, Ph.D., of Oregon State University and colleagues advised how pollen gets best up by honey bees on blueberry flowers and how pollen is transferred aback to blueberry flowers to accomplish pollination. Their allegation were appear in a new address in November in Environmental Entomology.
The pollination of flowers by insects relies on a circuitous coaction amid the analysis of insects and the analysis of flowers. Anniversary leg of an insect is disconnected into a femur at the top, a tibia in the middle, and a anatomy alleged a tarsus (plural: tarsi) at the lower end. And a archetypal annual is disconnected into a cone of petals that accomplish up a corolla, structures alleged anthers that authority pollen, and a axial stigma that accepts pollen and transfers it bottomward a tube to the ovary for fertilization.
In their study, Hoffman and colleagues calm honey bees from 11 Oregon blueberry farms and quantified the bulk of pollen begin on four capital anatomy parts: head, bust and abdomen, high legs, and tarsi. They additionally fabricated 327 observations of honey bees foraging on blueberry annual clusters, acquainted how abounding times anniversary bee probed the corolla of a flower, affective a stigma with the tip of a tarsus (a tarsal claw), brushed a stigma with a tarsus or leg, or probed abysmal abundant into a annual with a tarsus to blow an anther of a flower.
When quantifying pollen loads, the board begin the better bulk of pollen on the honey bee tarsi, with beneath on the arch and legs, and the aboriginal bulk on the bust and abdomen. In their behavioral observations, they apparent that the pollen alteration was able via the afterward mechanisms, ranked in adjustment of best to least:
Therefore, a lot of alteration of pollen happened back anatomy genitalia captivation pollen affected the stigmas of flowers during non-foraging behaviors, such as admonishment and walking beyond clusters of flowers. Interestingly, the aftermost three behaviors listed aloft generally happened back a bee counterbalanced its anatomy by avaricious the stigma with a leg, and they generally resulted in affecting the stigma in a annual abutting to the annual from which ambrosia was actuality gathered.
A honey bee (Apis mellifera) forages on blueberry flowers. While the bee forages on one annual in a cluster, added genitalia of the bee appear into acquaintance with the stigma of a altered annual in the cluster, illustrating a behavior that permits honey bees to auspiciously serve as pollinators of highbush blueberry crops. (Photo credit: George Hoffman, Ph.D.)
Regarding the key takeaway from this study, Hoffman says, “When investigating the role of pollinators of baby flowers in densely arranged inflorescences such as blueberry, pay absorption not alone to the flowers from which the insect is agriculture but additionally to the abutting flowers back their stigmas appear in acquaintance with the legs and tarsi of the pollinator.”
Pollen grains in blueberry plants generally action as four grains apprenticed calm in a pollen “tetrad.” Anniversary of the four grains on a tetrad can potentially blend an beginning of a flower, deepening the capability of pollen alteration by honey bees. Work by Margriet Dogterom and Mark Winston in 2000 empiric that in a array alleged Bluecrop, able pollination of a blueberry annual requires 125 pollen tetrads. In the present study, Hoffman begin that the aboriginal articulation of the tarsus of honeybees, alleged the basitarsus, captivated 200 pollen tetrads on average, which is added than acceptable to accomplish pollination.
The after-effects of Hoffman’s abstraction accept important applied applications to highbush blueberry cultivation. “There is already affirmation from Project Integrated Crop Pollinations and added studies,” Hoffman says, “that, as the cardinal of honey bee hives per acre on ample bartering blueberry farms increases, so do the cardinal of honey bee annual visits. There is a agnate abatement in absent crop due to bare pollination. Our allegation advance a apparatus for how this occurs alike back little blueberry pollen is alternate to the hives.”
Regarding approaching analysis accomplish his accumulation is pursuing, Hoffman says, “Our abstraction accurate that 66 percent of the time a honey bee acreage on a blueberry cluster, a leg or tarsus (usually covered with pollen) comes in acquaintance with the stigma of one or added flowers in that cluster. We charge to actuate how abundant pollen is transferred to the stigmas of those flowers. We are allotment way through this investigation, and aboriginal year after-effects are arch us to added abut the behavior of the bees back visiting blueberry clusters.”
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Hoffman and colleagues apparent that although the admission honey bees accept to blueberry flowers are accountable by the alarm appearance of the corollas, back addition the anatomy of advertence to attending at the abounding ambit of honey bee behaviors, it is bright how able pollination can be achieved. This is a able award for our compassionate of highbush blueberry pollination dynamics and additionally for compassionate the action of designing able accurate tests.
John P. Roche, Ph.D., is an author, biologist, and drillmaster committed to authoritative accurate science bright and accessible. Director of Science View Productions and an Adjunct Professor at the College of the Holy Cross, Dr. Roche has appear over 190 accessories and has accounting and accomplished abundantly about science. For added information, appointment https://authorjohnproche.com.
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