Few baseline data exist regarding the role of wild, primarily native, non-Apis bees in pollinating crops through the growing season in the mid-Atlantic United States. Apis mellifera L., honey bees, generally are assumed to provide the majority of crop pollination, with the value of pollination provided by non-Apis bees estimated at between one-half and one-sixth the value of honey bees, though many non-Apis bees are known to be more effective in pollinating some crops. In this study, the first documenting wild bees visiting crop flowers through the growing season, non-Apis bees accounted for the majority of crop visitation for several economically important entomophilous crops in Virginia, such as apple, blueberry, caneberry, and cucurbit) and likely provided most of the pollination. Wild bees made up between 68% (in caneberries) and 83% (in cucurbits) of bees visiting crop flowers. Between 43 and 59 non-Apis bee species visited flowers of each crop (105 species overall). Species turnover was very high between sites, ranging from only 13% shared species in pairwise comparisons for blueberries to 30% shared species for caneberries. Native bee taxa most abundant on crops were Andrena F., mining bees, Bombus Latreille, bumble bees, and Osmia Panzer, mason bees, on apples and blueberries; Losioglossum Curtis, sweat bees, on caneberries; and Peponapis pruinosa Say, squash bees, and Bombus on cucurbits. Overall, this study highlights the substantial role of native bees in agricultural pollination in this region.
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Vol. 41 • No. 4