The pollination effectiveness of the commercially reared bumble bee Bombus impatiens Cresson, was compared in field studies to the honey bee, Apis mellifera L., for lowbush blueberry, Vaccinium angustifolium Ait. A preliminary study indicated that B. impatiens had potential as an alternative pollinator. In a 3-yr study, percentage fruit set, percentage harvested berries, berry weight, and seeds per berry were compared in blueberry fields stocked at 7.5 A. mellifera hives per hectare to 5, 7.5, or 10 B. impatiens colonies per hectare. Percentage of harvested berries (yield) was significantly higher in fields stocked with B. impatiens at 10 colonies per hectare. No other parameters measuring pollinator effectiveness were significantly different at 5, 7.5, or 10 colonies per hectare. Flower handling time was significantly faster for B. impatiens and it more frequently collected blueberry pollen. All parameters of pollinator effectiveness were similar for B. impatiens, A. mellifera, and native wild bees in a follow-up study. Overall, B. impatiens was a suitable alternative to A. mellifera.
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Vol. 94 • No. 3