Mason bees and honey bees synergistically enhance fruit set in sweet cherry orchards

Julia Osterman*, Frances Benton, Sara Hellström, Meike Luderer‐Pflimpfl, Ann‐Kathrin Pöpel‐Eisenbrandt, Bilyana Stoykova Wild, Panagiotis Theodorou, Christin Ulbricht, Robert J. Paxton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
29 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Mason bees (Osmia spp.) are efficient fruit tree pollinators that can be encouraged to occupy and breed in artificial nesting material. In sweet cherry orchards, they are occasionally used as an alternative managed pollinator as a replacement for or in addition to honey bees (Apis mellifera). Yet, the lack of practical guidelines on management practices, for example optimal stocking rates, for both mason bee nesting material and honey bees might compromise pollination service provision. In this study, we assessed the relationship between stocking rates (honey bee hives and mason bee nesting material) and the abundance of honey bees and mason bees in 17 sweet cherry (Prunus avium) orchards in Central Germany. We furthermore performed a pollination experiment to explore the interactive effect of mason bees and honey bees on sweet cherry fruit set. In the orchards, both honey bee and mason bee abundance increased with increasing stocking rates of hives or nesting material, respectively. Honey bee abundance increased linearly with stocking rates. In contrast, mason bee abundance asymptoted at 2–3 nesting boxes per ha, beyond which more boxes resulted in little increase in visitation rate. Our pollination experiment demonstrated that orchards were pollen limited, with only 28% of insect‐pollinated flowers setting fruit versus 39% of optimally hand‐pollinated flowers. Honey bees and mason bees enhanced sweet cherry fruit set, but only when both were present and not when either was present alone in an orchard. Our findings demonstrate that offering nesting material for mason bees and employing honey bee hives can enhance bee abundance in sweet cherry orchards. By increasing honey bee abundance in combination with enhanced mason bee abundance, farmers can substantially boost fruit set and potentially sweet cherry yield. To enhance pollination services, farmers should consider the benefits of increasing pollinator biodiversity as an immediate benefit to improve crop yields.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere10289
JournalEcology and Evolution
Volume13
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 09 Jul 2023

Keywords

  • Apis mellifera
  • Osmia cornuta
  • crop pollination
  • ecological intensification
  • stocking density
  • European orchard bee
  • pollination management

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