Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Steven Alm

Abstract

Approximately 87% of flowering plants in the world are pollinated by animals. Bees are some of the most economically and ecologically important pollinators, necessary for the production of about one third of all crops. One such crop is highbush blueberry, grown throughout Rhode Island in small acreages. I conducted a survey of the bee species foraging on managed blueberry farms throughout Rhode Island, and analyzed their preference for blueberry pollen. I identified species using the DiscoverLife bee guides and confirmed the determinations with a taxonomist. I analyzed pollen loads, calculating percent blueberry pollen collected to determine which species were the most specific when in blueberry patches.

Most bee species nest underground. Andrena spp. are known to typically prefer sandy soils near forest edges or openings, but individual species data tends to focus on the biology and behavior of the bee and not soil characteristics. We discovered nests of Andrena crataegi Robertson underneath apple trees while collecting bees from commercial and research highbush blueberry plantings in Rhode Island. We identified the soil texture, percent organic matter, bulk density, and pH of the soil at the nest site. Depending on depth, the soil was found to be either silt loam or silt, percent organic matter ranged from 2.6-8.4%, bulk density ranged from 1.0-1.5 g/cm3, and pH ranged from 4.8-5.0. Further study is required to better understand the nesting requirements of this bee, with consideration of how site specific characteristics influence the agriculturally significant bee species in an area.

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