Weather plays an important role in spring-blooming fruit crops due to the combined effects on bee activity, flower opening, pollen germination, and fertilization. To determine the effects of weather on highbush blueberry, Vaccinium corymbosum L., productivity, we monitored bee activity and compared fruit set, weight, and seed number in a field stocked with honey bees, Apis mellifera L., and common eastern bumble bees, Bombus impatiens (Cresson). Flowers were subjected to one of five treatments during bloom: enclosed, open, open during poor weather only, open during good weather only, or open during poor and good weather. Fewer bees of all types were observed foraging and fewer pollen foragers returned to colonies during poor weather than during good weather. There were also changes in foraging community composition: honey bees dominated during good weather, whereas bumble bees dominated during poor weather. Berries from flowers exposed only during poor weather had higher fruit set in 1 yr and higher berry weight in the other year compared with enclosed clusters. In both years, clusters exposed only during good weather had >5 times as many mature seeds, weighed twice as much, and had double the fruit set of those not exposed. No significant increase over flowers exposed during good weather was observed when clusters were exposed during good and poor weather. Our results are discussed in terms of the role of weather during bloom on the contribution of bees adapted to foraging during cool conditions.
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Vol. 103 • No. 3