Cavity-nesting alfalfa leafcutting bees, Megachile rotundata (F.) (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae), are excellent pollinators of alfalfa, Medicago savita L., for seed production. In commercial settings, artificial cavities are placed in field domiciles for nesting and, thereby, bee populations are sustained for future use. For this study, cells from leafcutting bee nests were collected in late summer from commercial seed fields. Over 3 yr (2003–2005), 39 samples in total of ≈1,000 cells each were taken from several northwestern U.S. states and from Manitoba, Canada. X-radiography of 500 cells from each sample was used to identify “pollen balls” (i.e., cells in which the pollen–nectar provision remained, but the egg or larva, if present, was not detectable on an x-radiograph). Most U.S. samples seemed to have higher proportions of pollen ball cells than Manitoba samples. Pollen ball cells were dissected to determine the moisture condition of the mass provision and true contents of each cell. Most pollen ball cells from Manitoba samples contained fungus, the frequency of which was positively correlated with cool, wet weather. In the United States, most pollen ball cells had moist provisions, and many of them lacked young brood. Correlation analysis revealed that pollen ball cells occurred in greater proportions in fields with more hot days (above 38°C). Broodless pollen ball cells occurred in greater proportions under cool conditions, but dead small larvae (second–third instars) seemed to occur in greater proportions under hot conditions. Pollen ball cells with unhatched eggs and first instars (in the chorion) occurred in lesser proportions under hot conditions.
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Vol. 101 • No. 3