The alfalfa leafcutting bee, Megachile rotundata (F.), is a solitary, cavity-nesting bee that has been managed in large numbers to pollinate alfalfa, Medicago spp., seed crops since the 1960s. Propagation of these bees from 1 yr to the next has been seriously hampered by chalkbrood, a larval disease caused by the fungus Ascosphaera aggregata Skou. In the United States, attempts to control the disease have been fairly unsuccessful, but include removing nests from the nesting boards and then disinfecting the boards with heat treatments or a fumigant. The problem is that many boards are made of polystyrene (so heat cannot be used), and very few fumigants are registered for this use. In this study, ozone was tested as a fumigant and compared with heat treatments and methyl bromide fumigation. Ozone was found to be inadequate for killing A. aggregata spores and for reducing chalkbrood levels in the field. Methyl bromide and heat treatments did greatly reduce spore viability in the boards, but did not reduce chalkbrood levels in the field. Surprisingly, larvae in new nesting boards (boards free of contamination) and chalkbrood infection levels were similar to those from nests in contaminated, used boards. Disinfecting nesting boards may be necessary for controlling chalkbrood, but the results reported here indicate that it is not sufficient in and of itself. Some other source of spores was present in the field that was greater than the effect of contamination from the boards, but the source still needs to be determined.
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Vol. 98 • No. 4