Blue-banded bees as potential pollinators of lucerne

Summary

The overarching aim of this project is to contribute to the development of sustainable, longterm solutions for the foreseeable pollination shortage in the pasture seed industry, by investigating the potential for crop pollination by native bee species and by harnessing this potential. Specifically, the aims of this project are to investigate both the usefulness of bluebanded bees in the pollination of lucerne and some other pasture crops, and the potential to enhance the presence of the bees on the crop by providing nest substrate and by seeding them from existing cultures.

Program

Pasture Seeds

Research Organisation

The University of Adelaide

Objective Summary

1) Investigate the ability of bluebanded bees to pollinate lucerne. Honeybees are often placed on lucerne at high densities, because they are not preferred by the bees. We will investigate the ability of the native Australian bluebanded bees Amegilla murrayensis to pollinate lucerne in captivity. Our ability to breed the bees year round and to maintain them in captivity allows relatively rapid testing of their ability to pollinate lucerne. Flowering lucerne plants will be presented to bluebanded bees in enclosed flight compartments, and their pollination ability will be evaluated against controls of no pollination and honeybee pollination. 2) Develop permanent nesting structures for management of bluebanded bees to ensure pollinator activities on lucerne, and potentially also on other crops. Nesting walls will be designed that will house bluebanded bee aggregations at the crop sites. Different nesting substrates will be tested in confinement for their ability to attract bluebanded bees. These substrates will vary with respect to the qualitative and quantitative composition of clay and sand. Once established, experimental nesting walls of the preferred substrate will be built outside, and seeded with nests from the permanent breeding program that is in place at the University of Adelaide. The potential to use and manage native bees as crop pollinators will yield significant industrial, economic, environmental and scientific benefits. It particular, it should help the lucerne industry, which currently has substantial pollination problems. Furthermore, the promotion and use of native bees will help to safeguard against the imminent loss of free pollination by feral honeybees and the subsequent increased costs of paid pollination services.

Project Code

PRJ-005657

Project Stage

Closed

Project Start Date

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Project Completion Date

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Journal Articles From Project

Not Available

National Priority

An environmentally sustainable Australia

National Priority

Soil, water and managing natural resources

National Priority

PSE-Production and processing efficiency and profitability

Contact

Related publications

06.10.12

Native Australian Bees as Potential Pollinators of Lucerne