The pollinators of Echinacea angustifolia in Saskatchewan
Echinacea (Asteraceae) is grown as a nutraceutical crop and is one of the best selling medicinal plants on the North American market today, accounting for over 300 million dollars annually in sales. Echinacea angustifolia accounts for the majority of Echinacea produced in Saskatchewan and is native to the southern regions of the Canadian Prairies. Echinacea must be cross-pollinated to set seed, as is typical of members of the Asteraceae, and only insects can effect cross-pollination. An in-depth knowledge of Echinacea’s pollination system is essential to developing Echinacea as a sustainable market crop. E. angustifolia’s native pollinators are being identified and their pollination efficiencies assessed by pollen-tube quantification after visiting previously unvisited inflorescences. Interestingly, the recent abundance of grasshoppers in Saskatchewan has supported large populations of potential pollinators of E. angustifolia. For instance, the grasshopper bee fly (Systoechus vulgaris) and the golden blister beetle (Epicauta ferruginea) were particularly abundant on E. angustifolia inflorescences in the summer of 2003 and their contributions to pollination are being assessed. Alfalfa leafcutting bees (Megachile rotundata) managed in Saskatchewan as pollinators of alfalfa (Medicago sativum) have the potential to be excellent managed pollinators of Echinacea; this project will evaluate their pollination efficiency.
grasshopper bee flies
golden blister beetle
alfalfa leafcutting bee
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