Free access
Volume 37, Number 3, May-June 2006
Page(s) 317 - 325
Published online 23 February 2006
Apidologie 37 (2006) 317-325
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2005064

The effect of avocado (Persea americana) nectar composition on its attractiveness to honey bees (Apis mellifera)

Ohad Afika, Arnon Dagb and Sharoni Shafira

a  The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Faculty of Agricultural, Food, and Environmental Quality Sciences, Department of Entomology, B. Triwaks Bee Research Center, Rehovot 76100, Israel
b  Agricultural Research Organization, Institute of Horticulture, Gilat Research Station. M.P. Negev, 85280, Israel

(Received 10 March 2005 - revised 4 July 2005 - accepted 21 August 2005 - published online 23 February 2006)

Abstract - Honey bees are important avocado pollinators, but due to low attractiveness of avocado flowers pollination is often inadequate. Since honey is of nectar origin, we used it to test the effect of nectar composition on the preference of honey bees and we identified avocado honey due to its perseitol concentration. Bees preferred feeders containing non-avocado honey to avocado honey even when total sugar concentration in the avocado honey was higher. Crop loads were smaller for bees feeding on avocado than non-avocado honey. Finally, the learning performance of bees in a proboscis extension conditioning experiment was lower when they were rewarded with avocado honey than with non-avocado honey or sucrose solution. Moreover, only for avocado honey did the percentage of bees refusing to consume reward increase during the experiment. Our results indicate that honey bees prefer honey whose floral origin is of a competing flora over that of avocado. We conclude that avocado nectar composition may contribute to the low attractiveness of avocado flowers.

Key words: Persea americana / crop load / proboscis extension conditioning / repellency / pollination / perseitol / citrus

Corresponding author: Sharoni Shafir

© INRA, DIB-AGIB, EDP Sciences 2006