Honey bees, Apis mellifera L., are frequently used to pollinate commercial cranberries, Vaccinium macrocarpon Ait., but information is lacking on the relative contribution of honey bees and native bees, the effects of surrounding vegetation on bee visitation, and on optimal timing for honey bee introduction. We begin with a descriptive study of numbers of honey bees, bumble bees, and other bees visiting cranberry blossoms, and their subsequent effect on cranberry yield, on three cranberry properties in 1999. The property surrounded by agricultural land, as opposed to wetlands and woodlands, had fewer numbers of all bee types. In 2000, one property did not introduce honey bee colonies, providing an opportunity to document the effect of lack of honey bees on yield. With no honey bees, plants along the edge of the bed had significantly higher berry weights compared with nonedge plants, suggesting that wild pollinators were only effective along the edge. Comparing the same bed between 1999, with three honey bee colonies per acre, and 2000, with no honey bees, we found a significant reduction in average berry size. In 2000, we compared stigma loading on properties with and without honey bees. Significantly more stigmas received the minimum number of tetrads required for fruit set on the property with honey bees. Significantly more tetrads were deposited during mid-bloom compared with early bloom, indicating that mid-bloom was the best time to have honey bees present. This study emphasizes the importance and effectiveness of honey bees as pollinators of commercial size cranberry plantings.
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Vol. 99 • No. 3