Ten self-fertile commercial sunflowers cultivars were evaluated for seed set with and without exposure to bees. In the first planting, the number of foraging honey bees was smaller than in the second, and seed set for most cultivars did not differ between those bagged to exclude bees and ones that were open pollinated. In the second planting, however, a majority of cultivars had significantly greater seed set when capitula were exposed to bees compared with when they were not. The weight of seeds from open-pollinated capitula was greater than from those where bees were excluded. Environmental conditions also played a role in seed set as evidenced by differences between plantings in set on bagged capitula. In the first planting, average maximum and minimum temperatures were significantly higher than in the second, and overall seed set was significantly lower in capitula where bees were excluded compared with the second planting. Under the high temperature conditions, however, some cultivars set four times more seed on open-pollinated capitula compared with those that were bagged. These results suggest that foraging activity and cross-pollination by bees might mitigate reductions in seed set caused by high temperatures.
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