Giovanetti, M. (2018) Do bees like olive? A preliminary analysis of honey bee behaviour on flowers of the wind-pollinated species Olea europea. Acta Horticulturae: VIII International Olive Symposium, 1199, 121-126. DOI:10.17660/ActaHortic.2018.1199.20
Olea europaea produces small, white flowers, and its pollination strategy is generally considered anemophilous. However, this assumption does not fit with frequent observations of bees, and other members of the Hymenoptera, visiting the flowers and actively collecting the pollen. Pollen is frequently recorded in honey and pollen samples of the honey bee, Apis mellifera, but is often omitted when lists of pollen/nectar sources are made. The honey bee has been already observed constantly visiting other anemophilous species to collect the abundant available pollen. Therefore, olive pollen could be a resource to be gathered. The present work examined bee frequency and behaviour on olive flowers in the north of Italy, in an area protected as a Regional Park, but where agriculture is also allowed. In the field, data on flower abundance and phenology (no. of flowers/inflorescence, no. of flowers in anthesis) were collected at the same time of data on bee behaviour (no. of flowers and inflorescences visited/time unit; resource collected; type of flower selected). The results indicate that the honey bee is actively using olive flowers as a source of pollen; moreover, bees pay constant visits and frequently change inflorescence, possibly increasing the pollination service paid to the plants.