We conducted abroad geographic survey in the northwestern United States to quantify production losses in the alfalfa leafcutting bee (Megachile rotundata (F.), Hymenoptera: Megachilidae) , a solitary pollinator used extensively in alfalfa seed production. Viable larvae were found in only 47.1% of the nest cells collected at the end of the season. Most of the rest of the cells contained pollen balls (typified by a provision but no larva; 16.7%), unknown causes of mortality (15.5%), or larvae killed by chalkbrood (8.0%). Prevalence of pollen balls was correlated positively with bee release rates and negatively with alfalfa stand age. The unknown mortality was correlated with the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Plant Hardiness Zone, and thus, some of the mortality may be caused by high temperature extremes, although the nesting season degree-days were not correlated with this mortality. Chalk-brood prevalence was correlated with possible nesting-resource or crowding-related factors, such as the number of bees released per hectare and the number of shelters used, but not with nesting board disinfection practices. Vapona is used to control parasitoids when the parent bees are incubated before release, and use of this fumigant was associated with an increase in both chalkbrood and diapausing offspring, although any reason for these correlations are unknown. This survey quantifies the variation in the quality of alfalfa leafcutting bee cocoons produced across much of the U.S. alfalfa seed production area.
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Vol. 42 • No. 6