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Volume 2010 (2010), Article ID 201858, 7 pages
Research Article

Impact of Bee Species and Plant Density on Alfalfa Pollination and Potential for Gene Flow

USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Vegetable Crops Research Unit, Department of Entomology, 1630 Linden Drive, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA

Received 15 September 2009; Accepted 1 December 2009

Academic Editor: James C. Nieh

Copyright © 2010 Johanne Brunet and Christy M. Stewart. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In outcrossing crops like alfalfa, various bee species can contribute to pollination and gene flow in seed production fields. With the increasing use of transgenic crops, it becomes important to determine the role of these distinct pollinators on alfalfa pollination and gene flow. The current study examines the relative contribution of honeybees, three bumble bee species, and three solitary bee species to pollination and gene flow in alfalfa. Two wild solitary bee species and one wild bumble bee species were best at tripping flowers, while the two managed pollinators commonly used in alfalfa seed production, honeybees and leaf cutting bees, had the lowest tripping rate. Honeybees had the greatest potential for gene flow and risk of transgene escape relative to the other pollinators. For honeybees, gene flow and risk of transgene escape were not affected by plant density although for the three bumble bee species gene flow and risk of transgene escape were the greatest in high-density fields.