Here, we evaluate the potential of the bumble bee Bombus impatiens Cresson, obtained from commercial colonies, as a pollen vector for lowbush blueberry, Vaccinium augustifolium Aiton. We wanted to gain insight into the relationships between pollination by introduced bumble bees, the categories of seeds produced, and the weight and the maturity of the blueberries. The effect of B. impatiens foraging in blueberry stands was measured quantitatively through fruit set and seed set analysis. We created a density gradient of B. impatiens by clustering 72 small hives at the southern extremity of blueberry fields located in Girardville (49° 00′ N, 72° 33′ W), Quebec, Canada. Observers recorded plant and insect data in 52 plots of 1 by 10 m, distributed at distances ranging from 25 to 1,500 m from the hives. From these data, we evaluated the fruit set rate, the weight and maturity of the berries, and the number of seed structures per berry, including true seeds of large, medium, and small size, pseudo-seeds, and ovules. Positive correlations were found between the density of B. impatiens and fruit set as well as the number of large seeds per berry. Large seeds influenced the weight and maturity of berries. B. impatiens acted as a “near-nest central forager” and increased fruit set and seed production up to 100 and 150 m respectively, from the hives.
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Vol. 99 • No. 2