Low, medium, and high stocking densities (15,000; 30,000; and 45,000–50,000 bees per acre, respectively) of Megachile rotundata (F.) (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae), the alfalfa leafcutting bee, were released over 4 yr in three research plots of Utah alfalfa, Medicago sativa L. (Fabaceae), planted at seed-production rates. A low percentage of bees (46–79% of released) survived the incubation and field-emergence processes; of those bees, the number of females that established at the nesting sites was 25–100%. Of the three field sites, one site consistently retained more females and produced more completed nests than the other sites, all of which usually had poor female establishment and progeny production. In addition, floral resources were depleted over time, but many flowers remained unvisited over the season. Nest production decreased over time, as numbers of flowers and female bees declined. Significant positive relationships were found between the intended stocking densities and 1) the number of females that actually survived incubation and field emergence and 2) the number of females that established nests. The number of females that established nests was positively affected by the number of females that survived to emerge in the field. The percentage of females that established was not significantly affected by the intended number of released bees, countering a prediction that the release of fewer bees would allow more females to establish nests and achieve high reproductive success. For growers, it may be more frugal to use modest numbers of M. rotundata for pollination, because many of the bees at medium and high stocking densities do not nest in grower-provided bee boards.
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Vol. 106 • No. 2