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T h e Ne w Zeal and Entomologist, 1976, Vol . 6 No.

2
A Note on Insect Pollinators of Alfalfa in Pakistan
RAFIQ AHMAD
Pakistan Station, Commonwealth Institute of Biological Control,
Rawalpindi, Pakistan.
Summary
A survey for alfalfa pollinators was made in the Sargodha, Sahiwal, Gujrat
and Rawalpindi districts. Api s dorsata Fabricius was in some places abundant,
but its tripping capacity was low, while Hal i ct us sp., Megaclzilc cephalotes Smith,
Xyl ocopa basilis Smith and Cerat i na sexmacul at a Smith were found in small
numbers but their tripping capacities were high. Of these Halictus sp. and M .
cephalotes seem to be the most promising trippers and may prove useful
introductions into areas from which they are absent.
INTRODUCTION
Failure of seed-setting in alfalfa (lucerne - Medi cago sat i va) is a serious
problem. Tripping (the release of the stamina1 column from the restraining
process on the uing and the keel petals) is essential for pollination of this crop
(Armstrong and White, 1935) and is mainly performed by insects, particularly
bees (Bolton, 1962).
No ~ o r k on insect pollinators of alfalfa has been reported from Pakistan.
Therefore, a survey was carried out in the Sargodha, Sahiwal, Gujrat and
Rawalpindi districts in 1969. In this paper an account, based on field observations,
is given of insects associated with alfalfa flolvers and the effectiveness of some
pollinators.
The insects associated with alfalfa flowers Tvere closely watched. The number
of flowers visited by bees per minute are based on observations on 6-10 adults
of each species for 1-3 minutes in the morning. The tripping capacity of some
bees was determined by isolating and numbering untripped flowers and examining
100-220 flolvers visited by each species.
INSECTS ASSOCIATED WI TH FLOWERS
The insects swept from the flowers were Api s dorsata Fabricius, A . florea
Fabricius, A. indica Fabricius (honey-bees) , Cerat i na sexmacul at a Smith, C. viridis
Guerin, Halictus sp., H . clarus Cameron, Megachi l e l anat a Fabricius, M . cephalotes
Smith, Nomi a sp., Xyl ocopa basilis Smith and X . fenestrata Fabricius (wild-bees),
Cerioides sp., Epi syrphus sp., Eristalis sp., Scaena sp., Syri t t a sp., Syrphus sp.
(hover flies). Of these A. indica, Cerioides sp. and Scaena sp, occurred at
Rawalpindi and C. sexmacul at a and X . fenestrata at Sargodha while the other species
were distributed almost throughout the study area. In addition, some butterflies,
thrips and beetles (Coccinellids and Chrysomelids) were associated with alfalfa
flowers.
EFFECTIVENESS OF POLLINATING INSECTS
Honey-bees. The honey-bee Api s mellifera Linnaeus is an effective pollinator
of alfalfa in the south-western United States and in other desert and semi-desert
areas, but has relatively little effect on alfalfa seed yield in the more humid parts
of the Cnited States or in Canada and Europe (Bolton, 1962). During the present
studies, A . dorsata and A. pores were found to visit, respectively, 2-12 (average 6)
and 2-7 (average 4) flowers per minute. The former species tripped 2-9 (average
4) percent and the latter 0-3 (average 1) percent of the flowers visited by them.
Though the tripping capacity of both species was low, the former was abundant
in many localities and seemed to play an important role in seed-setting of the
alfalfa crop.
T h e N e w Zeal and Ent omol ogi st , 1976, Vo l . 6 hTo. 2 191
Wi l d-bees. The population of ~kild-bees uas very low at all localities except
at Sargodha \\here 5-13 (averaqe 9) adults of Hal i ct us sp., 3-10 (average 6) of
M. cephalotes, 1-3 (average 2) of X. basalis, 3-5 (average 4) of X. fenestrata and
8-12 ( a~er age 10) of C. sezmacul at a uere snept in 6 hours. These species
lvere verj actixe and fast in visiting the flowers. The comparatively higher
incidence of wild-bees here lvas probably due to the fact that there were various
ornamental plants in the vicinity of the alfalfa fields. I t seemed that these
provided food for the pollinators and maintained their populations in the absence
of alfalfa flowers.
Some species of the genera Hal i ct us, Megachi l e, Xyl ocopa (Bohart, 1957)
and Ce?at i na (Kapil and Kumar, 1969) have been reported to be important
l~ollinatcrs of alfalfa. During the present studies. Hal i ct us sp.. M. cephalotes,
X. basilis and C. sermacul at a visited, respectively, 1 1-2 1 (a1 erage 14), 8-1 7
(averaye 13) . 4-10 (average 7) and 6-1 1 (average 8) flo~vers per minute, and
tripped 85, 90. 61 and 60 percent of the flowers visited. These species seemed to
play an important role in the pollination of the alfalfa crop. particularly in
those fields close to ornamentals.
Of the other insects associated with alfalfa flowers, some species of syrphids.
butterflies and beetles also pollinated the crop, but their overall effect \\as
negligible.
.CKNOWLEDGMENT
Thr author is g~at eful to Dr F. J. Simmonds, Director. Commonwealth
Institute cf Biological Control. for going through the manuscript and makinq
useful suggestions.This ~vork xias sponsored by Entomology Division Dept. Scientific
and Industrial Research. Aluckland, New Zealand.
REFERENCES
: ~RMSTRQNG, J . M. AND ~ VHI T E , W. J. 1935. Factors influencing seed qztting in alfalfa.
J. Agric. Sci. 25: 161-179.
BOHART. G. E. 1957. Pollination of alfalfa and red clover. Ann. Rec. Ent. 2: 355-380.
BOLTOS, 1. L. 1962. Alfalfa botany, cultivation and utilization. Land-on Leonard Hill
Ltd., London: 106-107.
KAPIL. R. P. AND KUMAR. S. 1969. Biolog-y of Ceratinn binehami Ck11. i cer at i nhi :
Hymenoptera). J. Res. Punjnb Agric.-i'nli,. 6 ( 2 ) : 359-37 1