Indexed on: 01 Feb '18Published on: 01 Feb '18Published in: Journal of economic entomology
Pollinators provide essential services for watermelon, Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.; Cucurbitales: Cucurbitaceae). Managed bumble bees, Bombus impatiens (Cresson; Hymenoptera: Apidae), have been shown to be a useful watermelon pollinator in some areas. However, the exact contribution bumble bees make to watermelon pollination and how their contribution compares to that of other bees is unclear. We used large cages (5.4 × 2.5 × 2.4 m) to confine bumble bee hives to watermelon plants and compared fruit set in those cages to cages containing watermelons but no pollinators, and to open areas of field next to cages (allows all pollinators). We also collected data on single visit pollen deposition onto watermelon stigmas by managed bumble bees, honey bees, and wild bees. Overall, more fruit formed within the open cages than in cages of the other two treatment groups. B. impatiens and Melissodes spp. deposited the most pollen onto watermelon stigmas per visit, but all bee species observed visiting watermelon flowers were capable of depositing ample pollen to watermelon stigmas. Although B. impatiens did deposit large quantities of pollen to stigmas, they were not common within the field (i.e., outside the cages) as they were readily drawn to flowering plants outside of the watermelon field. Overall, bumble bees can successfully pollinate watermelon, but may be useful in greenhouses or high tunnels where watermelon flowers have no competition from other flowering plants that could draw bumble bees away from watermelon.