Flight activity was compared in colonies of Russian honey bees, Apis mellifera L. (Hymenoptera: Apidae), and Italian bees during commercial pollination of lowbush blueberries (principally Vaccinium angustifolium Aiton) in Washington Co., ME, in late May and early June in 2003 and 2004. Colonies of the two stocks were managed equally in Louisiana during autumn through early spring preceding observations in late spring each year. Resulting average populations of adult bees and of brood were similar in colonies of the two bee stocks during pollination. Flight during pollination was monitored hourly on 6 d each year by counting bees exiting each colony per minute; counts were made manually with flight cones on 17 colonies per stock in 2003 and electronically with ApiSCAN-Plus counters on 20 colonies per stock in 2004. Analysis of variance showed that temperature, colony size (population of adult bees or brood), and the interaction of these effects were the strongest regulators of flight activity in both years. Russian and Italian bees had similar flight activity at any given colony size, temperature, or time of day. Flight increased linearly with rising temperatures and larger colony sizes. Larger colonies, however, were more responsive than smaller colonies across the range of temperatures measured. In 2003, flight responses to varying temperatures were less in the afternoon and evening (1500–1959 hours) than they were earlier in the day. Russian colonies had flight activity that was suitable for late spring pollination of lowbush blueberries.
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Vol. 100 • No. 2