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Native bee diversity and pollen foraging specificity in cultivated highbush blueberry (Ericaceae: Vaccinium corymbosum) in Rhode Island

December 30, 2016

We identified 41 species of native bees from a total of 1,083 specimens collected at cultivated highbush blueberry plantings throughout Rhode Island in 2014 and 2015. Andrena spp., Bombus spp., and Xylocopa virginica (L.) were collected most often. Bombus griseocollis (DeGeer), B. impatiens Cresson, B. bimaculatus Cresson, B. perplexus Cresson, and Andrena vicina Smith collected the largest mean numbers of blueberry pollen tetrads. The largest mean percent blueberry pollen loads were carried by the miner bees Andrena bradleyi Viereck (91%), A. carolina Viereck (90%), and Colletes validus Cresson (87%). The largest mean total pollen grain loads were carried by B. griseocollis (549,844), B. impatiens (389,558), X. virginica (233,500), and B. bimaculatus (193,132). Xylocopa virginica was the fourth and fifth most commonly collected bee species in 2014 and 2015, respectively. They exhibit nectar robbing and females carried relatively low blueberry pollen loads (mean 33%). Overall, we found 10 species of bees to be the primary pollinators of blueberries in Rhode Island.