Bees Occurring in Corn Production Fields Treated with Atoxigenic Aspergillus flavus (Texas, USA)
Department of Plant and Soil Science, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 79409, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Agronomy 2020, 10(4), 571; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy10040571
Received: 11 March 2020 / Revised: 3 April 2020 / Accepted: 13 April 2020 / Published: 16 April 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Farming Sustainability)
A saprophytic soil fungus, Aspergillus flavus, produces aflatoxin (toxigenic strains) in the kernels of corn (Zea mays L.) and seeds of many other crops. Many strains of A. flavus do not produce toxigenic aflatoxin, and soil application of these atoxigenic strains is a suppressive control tactic to assist in controlling toxigenic conspecifics. Effects of atoxigenic A. flavus applications on honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) and other bees are unknown, and basic information on bee occurrences in cornfields treated with and without this biological agent is needed to inform integrated pest management in corn. Fields receiving atoxigenic A. flavus applications of FourSureTM were compared to nearby control fields in three counties in corn production regions in eastern Texas. In each cornfield, 20 bee bowl traps were deployed along four equal transects located between corn rows, with contents of the bowls (i.e., bees) retrieved after 24 h. Eleven bee genera from four families were collected from cornfields, with only two honey bees collected and zero honey bees observed in transects. The sweat bee genus Agapostemon (primarily composed of the Texas striped sweat bee A. texanus) was most abundant in cornfields (44% of the total number of bees collected), followed by long-horned bees (Melissodes spp., 24%). The southernmost county (i.e., San Patricio) produced over 80% of the total number of bees collected. Bee numbers occurring in cornfields with applications of atoxigenic A. flavus applications were not significantly different from those of nearby control fields. Although not statistically significant, total numbers of bees tended to be lower in FourSure-treated fields than in control fields. More extensive research on bee abundances in relation to the effect of atoxigenic A. flavus is warranted.