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Date of Award


Document Type

Restricted Thesis: Campus only access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science



First Advisor

Dr. Brad Goodner


Honeybees have been used to pollinate agricultural crops in North America for over 350 years, but due to recent mite infestations, honeybee populations across the United States have been rapidly declining (Watanabe, 1984). It is because of this decline and the consequences that it brings for farmers that we began studying native insects with the hope that someday they could be used as alternative pollinators. I initially undertook this project with two other students in the summer of 1997 and I went on to continue it on my own during the summer of 1998. This research project had three main goals. The first was to get a better understanding of native bee and insect pollination behavior in Virginia. We were trying to determine the flower preferences of insects in the wild and how those preferences might change over the course of a season. The second goal was to map out a geographic distribution of all the bumblebee species found in the state of Virginia. Some of this work has been written up in past Honor Theses (Scott, 1998; Wilburn, 1998) and I will not discuss it further. However, I did carry out extensive analysis of one data set and this is covered in the attached addendum (Brandler et at., 1999). The third goal ' of this project was to see if native bumblebees would be willing and effective pollinators of agricultural plants. I spent the summer of 1998 working to accomplish this last goal. We wanted to discover what plants native bumblebees preferred to visit, how far they were willing to travel from their nest to forage, how their flower preferences changed over the course of a season, and how effective they would be at pollinating agricultural crops.

To answer these questions we designed several different experiments. First, we used tomato and cucumber plants as test plants to see if native bumblebees would visit them and how effective they would pollinate them. The second experiment involved catching and marking bumblebees found in certain areas and tracking their movements on a daily basis. The most involved, and unfortunately the most frustrating, experiment was the tomato and cucumber experiment. We had hoped that this would provide us with information as to whether bumblebees in particular are effective pollinators of agricultural crops, but it failed to yield any results due to unforeseeable circumstances.