Mating & Breeding System: Cucumis melo contains several commonly cultivated varieties that can each be fertilized by their own pollen, that of another individual, and also pollen from other varieties. Flowers of both sexes are typically open for only a single day, with fertility of the plant being greatest in the morning and declining as the day progresses. Some varieties may have separate male and female flowers, others may have male and female parts in the same flowers (hermaphrodite, or 'perfect' flowers), while still others may have hermaphrodite flowers together with separate male or female flowers on the same vine. On an individual plant, male flowers tend to be more abundant, mature earlier, and produce nectar with higher sugar concentrations than female flowers. Insects, including honey bees, are required to move pollen from flower to flower. Foraging bees typically collect pollen in the morning and will switch to nectar in the afternoon, working both flower genders and delivering the large, sticky pollen grains in the process.
Pollination, Quality & Yield: Varieties of Cucumis melo typically require a minimum of 400 fertilized ovules per melon to produce a marketable fruit, and could have up to 600 or more. Insect pollination is essential for these crops, and can increase yield per hectare and improve the size, quality, and marketability of the fruit.
Pollination Recommendations: 2.5 strong colonies of honey bees per hectare are recommended for large fields. In small fields, or in large fields managed with them in mind, the native squash bee Peponapis pruinosa is an effective pollinator. This ground-nesting bee can reach very high densities at the field margins and within the field itself, and is active early in the morning when the pollen is most fertile. Care must be taken to avoid damage to nests of P. pruinosa and other ground-nesting wild bees that may be caused by deep tillage.
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