Stingless bees further improve apple pollination and production
The use of Africanised honeybee (Apis mellifera scutellata Lepeletier) hives to increase pollination success in apple orchards is a widespread practice. However, this study is the first to investigate the number of honeybee hives ha-1 required to increase the production of fruits and seeds as well as the potential contribution of the stingless bee Mandaçaia (Melipona quadrifasciata anthidioides Lepeletier). We performed tests in a 43-ha apple orchard located in the municipality of Ibicoara (13º24’50.7’’S and 41º17’7.4’’W) in Chapada Diamantina, State of Bahia, Brazil. In 2011, fruits from the Eva variety set six seeds on average, and neither a greater number of hives (from 7 to 11 hives ha-1) nor a greater number of pollen collectors at the honeybee hives displayed general effects on the seed number. Without wild pollinators, seven Africanised honeybee hives ha-1 with pollen collectors is currently the best option for apple producers because no further increase in the seed number was observed with higher hive densities. In 2012, supplementation with both stingless bees (12 hives ha-1) and Africanised honeybees (7 hives ha-1) provided higher seed and fruit production than supplementation with honeybees (7 hives ha-1) alone. Therefore, the stingless bee can improve the performance of honeybee as a pollinator of apple flowers, since the presence of both of these bees results in increases in apple fruit and seed number.
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