The identification of Andrena crataegi as the apple bee in Georgia

Monday, November 11, 2013
Exhibit Hall 4 (Austin Convention Center)
Catherine Schlueter , University of North Georgia, Lawrenceville, GA
Nicholas G. Stewart , Georgia Gwinnett College, Lawrenceville, GA
Mark A. Schlueter , Georgia Gwinnett College, Lawrenceville, GA
Commercial fruit and vegetable agriculture is dependent on honeybee pollination services.  However, the honeybee is in decline due to several factors such as Colony Collapse Disorder. In addition, costs for honeybee pollination services (i.e. renting honeybee hives) have increased over the past decades, adding to farmer production costs.  Is there an alternative pollinator to the honeybee?  In the present study, we have examined the abundance and diversity of native bees present in apple orchards in Georgia. We have documented over 100 species of native bees. The mining bee Andrena crataegi and its close relatives, the Melandrena, are the most abundant in Georgia apple orchards.  Netting experiments that isolated apple branches from honeybees found that native bees could pollinate just as efficiently as the honeybee.  In addition, over 90% of the bees responsible for the successful pollination of the apple trees were Andrena crataegi and the Melandrena bees.  Further studies show that the abundances of these bees can be boosted by adding trenches (nesting areas) around commercial orchards. Andrena crataegi, a communal ground nesting mining bee, has the potential to become a valuable commercial pollinator.