Stingless Bees as Crop Pollinators (Glasshouse)
The use of Protected Cropping Environments (PCEs; e.g. glasshouses and poly-tunnels) for food production has increased over the last decades. This is largely because PCEs allow for year-round production of fresh fruits and vegetables to meet the needs of a growing human population. However, the enclosed nature of PCEs excludes wild pollinators from pollinating crops in such environments. This is a substantial challenge for the production of crops that require pollination to achieve optimum yield and fruit development.
One way to overcome this exclusion of wild pollinators in PCEs is the introduction of colonies of managed bees (such as honeybees and stingless bees). Native Australian stingless bees, such as Tetragonula carbonaria and Tetragonula hockingsi, are excellent potential pollinators for use in PCEs because they have no functional sting and are therefore safe for people working in PCEs. Additionally, they are generalist foragers and therefore potentially compatible with multiple crops.
The aim of my research is to investigate:
- If Australian native stingless bees (T. carbonaria and T. hockingsi) can improve the yield and quality of strawberry crops grown in a high-tech glasshouse at Western Sydney University;
- The number of bee visits to flowers required for optimal pollination, and how this is influenced by the bees’ foraging behaviour;
- The effect of limited floral resources in a glasshouse on the health and gut microbial communities of the bees.
The outcome of this research will:
- Provide information about the effectiveness of Australian stingless bees in improving the yield and quality of strawberry crops grown in a glasshouse;
- Enhance profitability for growers;
- Inform management decisions to ensure sustainable use of the bees;
- Provide awareness and protection of native bee species through industry utilization.
Egbon IN, Nzie OP, Rotimi J, (2020) 'Mimosa diplotricha (Fabaceae) Recruits Native Pollinators, But Does It Matter?', Journal of Applied Sciences and Environmental Management, vol.23, pp 2263-2272
Nzie O, Hall M, Spooner-Hart R, Cook J, Riegler M, (2020) 'Glasshouse strawberry pollination using native stingless bees', Australian Berry Journal - WINTER 2020 - Edition 3, pp 54 – 56
Associate Professor Markus Riegler, Associate Professor Robert Spooner-Hart, Professor James Cook, Dr Mark Hall.