A significant concern in the commercial application of the alfalfa leafcutting bee, Megachile rotundata (F.) (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae), for pollination is synchronizing bee emergence and activity with peak crop bloom. Previous studies have demonstrated that the commercial spring incubation of this species can be successfully interrupted by low temperature incubation, thereby slowing development and giving producers flexibility in timing emergence to weather conditions or crop bloom. In this study, we demonstrate that the implementation of a fluctuating thermal regime, during which bees are given a daily one hour pulse of high temperature, markedly increases the “shelf-life” of individuals of this species. Although constant temperatures can be used to store bees for up to 1 wk with no decrease in survival, properly staged bees can be stored for up to 6 wk without a significant decrease in percentage of emergence. Hence, we expect fluctuating thermal regime protocols to become a valuable tool for M. rotundata managers, especially when timing nesting activity with peak bloom to maximize effectiveness.
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Vol. 104 • No. 4