The reproduction of lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium Aiton) is closely tied to insect pollination, owing to self-incompatibility. Many species are known to have greater pollination efficiency than the introduced Apis mellifera L., commonly used for commercial purposes. In this study, we measured the pollen loads of several antophilous insect species, mostly Apoidea and Syrphidae, present in four lowbush blueberry fields in Lac-St-Jean, Québec. To measure pollen loads and species specificity toward V. angustifolium, we net-collected 627 specimens of pollinators, retrieved their pollen loads, identified pollen taxa, and counted pollen grains. We found that the sizes of pollen loads were highly variable among species, ranging from a few hundred to more than 118,000 pollen grains per individual. Bombus and Andrena species in particular carried large amounts of Vaccinium pollen and thus may have greater pollination efficiency. Also, two species (Andrena bradleyi Viereck and Andrena Carolina Viereck) showed nearly monolectic behavior toward lowbush blueberry. Finally, we identified alternative forage plants visited by native pollinators, notably species of Acer, Rubus, Ilex mucronata, Ledum groenlandicum, and Taraxacum. Protecting these flowering plants should be part of management practices to maintain healthy pollinator communities in a lowbush blueberry agroecosystem.
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Vol. 107 • No. 3