The biology and behavior of the alkali bee Nomia melanderi Cockerell (Hymnoptera:Apoidea) Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/8c97kt25p

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  • Nomia melanderi Cockerell is one of the most efficient pollinators of alfalfa in Eastern Oregon. Emergence begins in June, usually reaches its peak in early July, and may continue into early August. Male emergence precedes female emergence by four or five days. For the first few weeks of this time, the males spend the morning hours patrolling the nesting area. As each new female bee emerges, many males attempt to mate with her , but most contacts are unsuccessful. Soil temperature and moisture are the prime factors influencing emergence. After mating has been accomplished, the female bee forages in the field and returns to the bee bed in the afternoon to begin nest construction. The male also spends the afternoon in the field, returning to spend the night in clusters on plants on, or in the vicinity of the bee bed. Some crawl under the loose soil crust, paper, sticks, rocks, or enter burrows for the night. The female, after digging herself under the soil surface, spends the nest two or three days roughing out cells. On the third, fourth or fifth day she begins to collect pollen. She usually forages on blossoms close to the nest, tripping about 96 percent of those visited. The female gradually increases her foraging range, moving progressively further from the nest as she ages. The time required to complete each pollen collecting trip varies considerably, but averages close to 35 minutes. It takes from seven to 11 trips to complete one pollen ball and this may require from 5 1/2 to 9 hours. The female trips the alfalfa blossom by forcing its head against the standard petal while its legs are braced against the wing petals. Mortality is evidenced by an abrupt decline in the number of working females. Eggs of Nomia melanderi require from 2 1/2 to 3 days to hatch. The larva passes through five instars. The fifth instar defecates after all the pollen has been consumed, and transforms into the prepupa, which passes through the winter. The following spring the prepupa transforms into the pupa which shortly develops into the mature adult. The alkali bee uses major and minor landmarks for orientation. Larger landmarks such as haystacks, trees, fences, roads , and ditches are used to locate the bee bed. Then smaller markers such as soil clods, sticks, etc. are used to locate the individual burrow opening. Preliminary studies suggest that the alkali bee is able to distinguish among yellow, green, blue, white and gray colors. Temperature is usually the limiting factor in the initiation of morning activity, whereas light intensity appears to determine the time of flight cessation in the evening.
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