Diversity of sunflower pollinators and their effect on seed yield in Makueni District, Eastern Kenya
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A field experiment was carried out in 2004 and 2005 to identify the diversity of sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) pollinators and their influence on seed yield in Makueni district, a semi-arid area in Eastern Kenya. Insect flower visitors were recorded, pollen counted from their body and pollination efficiency index for each visitor determined. Seed yield from plots where insect visitors had access to and where they were denied access was compared. The proportional difference of yield from this pollination scenario was used to estimate monetary net-gain by farmers that could be attributed to insect pollination. In total, individuals belonging to 14 insect species were observed visiting sunflower floral heads. These included six Lepidopteran species, five Hymenopteran species, two Dipteran species, and one Coleopteran species. Apis mellifera L. was the most frequent visitor and had the highest pollination efficiency index. Plots where insect visitors had access produced on average 53% more seed yield compared with plots where insect visitors were excluded. This translates to a net monetary benefit of 51% of the total annual market value of sunflower, accruing to farmers in Makueni district in 2005 due to insect pollination.