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Onion, Allium cepa L. (Asparagales: Amaryllidaceae), crop fields grown for seed production require arthropod pollination for adequate seed yield. Although many arthropod species visit A. cepa flowers, for most there is little information on their role as pollinators. Small flower visiting arthropods (body width < 3 mm) in particular are rarely assessed. A survey of eight flowering commercial A. cepa seed fields in the North and South Islands of New Zealand using window traps revealed that small arthropods were highly abundant among all except one field. Insects belonging to the orders Diptera and Thysanoptera were the most abundant and Hymenoptera, Collembola, Psocoptera, Hemiptera, and Coleoptera were also present. To test whether small arthropods might contribute to pollination, seed sets from umbels caged within 3 mm diameter mesh cages were compared with similarly caged, hand-pollinated umbels and uncaged umbels. Caged umbels that were not hand-pollinated set significantly fewer seeds (average eight seeds/umbel, n = 10) than caged hand-pollinated umbels (average 146 seeds/umbel) and uncaged umbels (average 481 seeds/umbel). Moreover, sticky traps placed on umbels within cages captured similar numbers of small arthropods as sticky traps placed on uncaged umbels, suggesting cages did not inhibit the movement of small arthropods to umbels. Therefore, despite the high abundance of small arthropods within fields, evidence to support their role as significant pollinators of commercial A. cepa seed crops was not found.
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