In alfalfa, Medicago sativa L., seed production where high bee densities are released, alfalfa leafcutting bee, Megachile rotundata (F.) (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae), females may enter several nesting holes before locating their nests. Such levels of “wrong hole” visits lead to an increase in the time spent by females locating their own nests, thereby decreasing alfalfa pollination efficiency and possibly healthy brood production. The objectives of this study were to determine the effect of different nesting board configurations in commercial alfalfa leafcutting bee shelters (separating nesting boards, applying a three-dimensional pattern to the boards, applying a color contrast pattern, or applying a combination of three-dimensional and color contrast patterns) on nest location performance, on the incidence of chalkbrood disease, and on the incidence of broodless provisions. Separating the nesting boards inside shelters improved the ability of females to locate their nests. An increase in nest location performance also occurred in boards with the three-dimensional pattern and the combined three-dimensional and color contrast pattern, compared with the uniform board (a standard configuration currently used commercially). The percentage of provisioned cells that were broodless was not statistically different between treatments, but the percentage of larvae infected with chalkbrood decreased by half in the three-dimensional board design, compared with the uniform board.
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Vol. 99 • No. 3