Increasing seed yield in Papaver somniferum L. with the use of honey bees (Apis mellifera L.)

Angela M. Merry1, Ross Corkrey2, Guy Westmore3, Geoff Dean1

1 Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, School of Land and Food, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 1375, Prospect, 7250,
2 Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, School of Land and Food, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 54, Hobart, Tasmania, 7001.
3 Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water & Environment, PO Box 46, Kings Meadows, Tasmania, 7249.


Honeybees (Apis mellifera L.) are known to play a role in pollination of poppy (Papaver somniferum L.) and could be used in seed crops to increase yield. Experiments were conducted on commercial poppy crops in northern Tasmania to establish the relationship between a gradient of honeybees and seed yield of poppy. Three beehives were grouped in the centre of three commercial poppy fields and an additional three fields were chosen that had no hives as controls. Plots were established in a spiral design every 5 m from 10 m to 140 m radius from the centre, thus having plots ranging over distance from a higher density to a lower density of bees pollinating the flowers at treatment sites. There were significantly more seeds per capsule for all capsule size classes, at the sites with beehives compared to the control. In addition for the large capsules there was a significant radial effect at the bee sites, with more seeds per capsule closer to the hive than further away. There was no radial effect for the control. Insect pollinations were also monitored using pan traps at set distances from the centre of the crop at each site. There were significantly more native pollinators captured at the edge of the crop than at any other distance from the centre of the field. Honeybees have been shown to increase yield in commercial poppy crops, and can be used to increase yield in crops were the yield of genetic superior seed is important.


The Australian Society of Agronomy is the professional body for agronomists in Australia. It has approximately 500 active members drawn from government, universities, research organisations and the private sector.

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David Marland Photography Southern Farming Systems Agriculture Victoria

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