Ufo's in alfalfa (Medicago sativa): Unveiling the pollinators

Monday, November 11, 2013
Exhibit Hall 4 (Austin Convention Center)
Amelia Jordan , Washington State University, Pullman, WA
Doug Walsh , Washington State University, Prosser, WA
Two pollinators are of crucial importance to the production of alfalfa seed: the alfalfa leaf-cutting bee (Megachile rotundata) and the alkali bee (Nomia melanderii). National supplies of the ALCB have dwindled, causing prices per gallon to skyrocket. While some local populations of the alkali bee continue to grow, the bee is unable to be transported from field to field for pollination. In this study, we used a combination of sweep netting and colored bee bowls to build a reference collection of pollinators found in blooming alfalfa. Pollinators were collected from Fresno, CA, Parma, ID, as Prosser, Touchet, and White Swan, WA the summer of 2013. These pollinators were identified using the aid of experts in Utah and California and are on display at the WSU museum as well as other museums. We found several species of bees in not insignificant numbers in alfalfa bloom; however, their numbers do not rival those of the commercial pollinators. It is unclear whether these few pollinators can be adapted for commercial use. More study is needed to determine if these species play a role in alfalfa seed production and the movement of pollen.
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