Insect-mediated pollination is critical for lowbush blueberry (Ericaceae: Vaccinium angustifolium Aiton) fruit development. Past research shows a persistent presence of wild bees (Hymenoptera: Apoidea) providing pollination services even when commercial pollinators are present. We undertook the study to 1) provide a description of bee communities found in lowbush blueberry-growing regions, 2) identify field characteristics or farm management practices that influence those communities, 3) identify key wild bee pollinators that provide pollination services for the blueberry crop, and 4) identify non-crop plants found within the cropping system that provide forage for wild bees. During a 4-year period, we collected solitary and eusocial bees in over 40 fields during and after blueberry bloom, determining a management description for each field. We collected 4,474 solitary bees representing 124 species and 1,315 summer bumble bees representing nine species. No bumble bee species were previously unknown in Maine, yet we document seven solitary bee species new for the state. These include species of the genera Nomada, Lasioglossum, Calliopsis, and Augochloropsis. No field characteristic or farm management practice related to bee community structure, except bumble bee species richness was higher in certified organic fields. Pollen analysis determined scopal loads of 67–99% ericaceous pollen carried by five species of Andrena. Our data suggest two native ericaceous plants, Kalmia angustifolia L. and Gaylussacia baccata (Wangenheim), provide important alternative floral resources. We conclude that Maine blueberry croplands are populated with a species-rich bee community that fluctuates in time and space. We suggest growers develop and maintain wild bee forage and nest sites.
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Vol. 44 • No. 4