Experiments were conducted in commercial tomato, Lycopersicon esculentum Miller (Solanaceae), greenhouses to compare the relative foraging effort of two bumble bee species, Bombus occidentalis Greene and Bombus impatiens Cresson, to examine interspecific competition between B. occidentalis and B. impatiens, and to determine whether bumble bee colonies grew to their full population potential in commercial tomato greenhouses. B. impatiens colonies had more brood and workers and made more foraging trips per hour than B. occidentalis colonies. However, B. impatiens returned to the colony without pollen loads and left their colonies without dropping off their pollen loads more frequently than B. occidentalis greenhouse colonies. Our data also suggest that the presence of B. impatiens had a detrimental effect on B. occidentalis populations. Furthermore, B. occidentalis colonies did not grow to their full population potential in tomato greenhouses, with fewer workers in greenhouse colonies than in colonies placed outside in a natural environment, or in colonies that were physically enclosed and protected from external mortality. Together, this study suggests that B. impatiens is a better pollinator than B. occidentalis. It also shows that unknown factors are limiting the size of B. occidentalis colonies in tomato greenhouses.
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