Journal of Economic Entomology. 1995. 88:1739-1745

The Role of Honey Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in the Pollination of Buckwheat in Eastern North America


Department of Horticultural Sciences, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Cornell University, Geneva, NY 14456

ABSTRACT Seed production in buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum Moench) can be lower than expected from the plant biomass. This low seed production has often been blamed on inadequate pollination. Honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) were at least 95% of the insect visitors to buckwheat flowers in fields of central New York State. The number of times each flower was visited by a honey bee ranged from zero to over 40, but the number of honey bee visits did not increase daily seed initiation if each flower was visited at least twice. Pollen delivery sometimes limited seed set, but limitation was not associated with low honey-bee visitation frequency. The yield and genetic quality of buckwheat is best with pollen deliveries of at least 10 grains, but honey bees delivered less pollen. The time between delivery of the first and tenth pollen grain was about an hour, which is more than enough for fertilization to occur. Buckwheat in New York is pollinated primarily by honey bees, but bee behavior is not well-adapted to the crop, and the effectiveness of bees as pollinators was not improved at higher populations.

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