Flower preferences and pollen transport networks for cavity-nesting solitary bees: Implications for the design of agri-environment schemes.
ABSTRACT: Floral foraging resources are valuable for pollinator conservation on farmland, and their provision is encouraged by agri-environment schemes in many countries. Across Europe, wildflower seed mixtures are widely sown on farmland to encourage pollinators, but the extent to which key pollinator groups such as solitary bees exploit and benefit from these resources is unclear. We used high-throughput sequencing of 164 pollen samples extracted from the brood cells of six common cavity-nesting solitary bee species (Osmia bicornis, Osmia caerulescens, Megachile versicolor, Megachile ligniseca, Megachile centuncularis and Hylaeus confusus) which are widely distributed across the UK and Europe. We documented their pollen use across 19 farms in southern England, UK, revealing their forage plants and examining the structure of their pollen transport networks. Of the 32 plant species included currently in sown wildflower mixes, 15 were recorded as present within close foraging range of the bees on the study farms, but only Ranunculus acris L. was identified within the pollen samples. Rosa canina L. was the most commonly found of the 23 plant species identified in the pollen samples, suggesting that, in addition to providing a nesting resource for Megachile leafcutter bees, it may be an important forage plant for these species. Higher levels of connectance and nestedness were characteristic of pollen transport networks on farms with abundant floral resources, which may increase resilience to species loss. Our data suggest that plant species promoted currently by agri-environment schemes are not optimal for solitary bee foraging. If a diverse community of pollinators is to be supported on UK and European farmland, additional species such as R. canina should be encouraged to meet the foraging requirements of solitary bees.
Project description:Concerns over the availability of honeybees (Apis mellifera L.) to meet pollination demands have elicited interest in alternative pollinators to mitigate pressures on the commercial beekeeping industry. The blue orchard bee, Osmia lignaria (Say), is a commercially available native bee that can be employed as a copollinator with, or alternative pollinator to, honeybees in orchards. To date, their successful implementation in agriculture has been limited by poor recovery of bee progeny for use during the next spring. This lack of reproductive success may be tied to an inadequate diversity and abundance of alternative floral resources during the foraging period. Managed, supplementary wildflower plantings may promote O. lignaria reproduction in California almond orchards. Three wildflower plantings were installed and maintained along orchard edges to supplement bee forage. Plantings were seeded with native wildflower species that overlapped with and extended beyond almond bloom. We measured bee visitation to planted wildflowers, bee reproduction, and progeny outcomes across orchard blocks at variable distances from wildflower plantings during 2015 and 2016. Pollen provision composition was also determined to confirm O. lignaria wildflower pollen use. Osmia lignaria were frequently observed visiting wildflower plantings during, and after, almond bloom. Most O. lignaria nesting occurred at orchard edges. The greatest recovery of progeny occurred along the orchard edges having the closest proximity (80 m) to managed wildflower plantings versus edges farther away. After almond bloom, O. lignaria nesting closest to the wildflower plantings collected 72% of their pollen from Phacelia spp., which supplied 96% of the managed floral area. Phacelia spp. pollen collection declined with distance from the plantings, but still reached 17% 800 m into the orchard. This study highlights the importance of landscape context and proximity to supplementary floral resources in promoting the propagation of solitary bees as alternative managed pollinators in commercial agriculture.
Project description:Mounting evidence suggests that microbes found in the pollen provisions of wild and solitary bees are important drivers of larval development. As these microbes are also known to be transmitted via the environment, most likely from flowers, the diet breadth of a bee may affect the diversity and identity of the microbes that occur in its pollen provisions. Here, we tested the hypothesis that, due to the importance of floral transmission of microbes, diet breadth affects pollen provision microbial community composition. We collected pollen provisions at four sites from the polylectic bee Osmia lignaria and the oligolectic bee Osmia ribifloris. We used high-throughput sequencing of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene to characterize the bacteria found in these provisions. We found minimal overlap in the specific bacterial variants in pollen provisions across the host species, even when the bees were constrained to foraging from the same flowers in cages at one site. Similarly, there was minimal overlap in the specific bacterial variants across sites, even within the same host species. Together, these findings highlight the importance of environmental transmission and host specific sorting influenced by diet breadth for microbes found in pollen provisions. Future studies addressing the functional consequences of this filtering, along with tests for differences between more species of oligoletic and polylectic bees will provide rich insights into the microbial ecology of solitary bees.
Project description:Wild bees are declining in intensively farmed regions worldwide, threatening pollination services to flowering crops and wild plants. To halt bee declines, it is essential that conservation actions are based on a mechanistic understanding of how bee species utilize landscapes. We aimed at teasing apart how foraging resources in the landscape through the nesting season affected nesting and reproduction of a solitary bee in a farmland region. We investigated how availability of floral resources and potentially resource-rich habitats surrounding nests affected nest provisioning and reproduction in the solitary polylectic bee Osmia bicornis. The study was performed in 18 landscape sectors dominated by agriculture, but varying in agricultural intensity in terms of proportion of organic crop fields and seminatural permanent pastures. Pasture-rich sectors contained more oak (Quercus robur), which pollen analysis showed to be favored forage in early season. More oaks ?100 m from nests led to higher proportions of oak pollen in nest provisions and increased speed of nest construction in early season, but this effect tapered off as flowering decreased. Late-season pollen foraging was dominated by buttercup (Ranunculus spp.), common in various noncrop habitats. Foraging trips were longer with more oaks and increased further through the season. The opposite was found for buttercup. Oak and buttercup interacted to explain the number of offspring; buttercup had a positive effect only when the number of oaks was above the mean for the studied sectors. The results show that quality of complex and pasture-rich landscapes for O. bicornis depends on preserving existing and generating new oak trees. Lignose plants are key early-season forage resources in agricultural landscapes. Increasing habitat heterogeneity with trees and shrubs and promoting suitable late-flowering forbs can benefit O. bicornis and other wild bees active in spring and early summer, something which existing agri-environment schemes seldom target.
Project description:There is a growing body of empirical evidence showing that wild and managed bees are negatively impacted by various pesticides that are applied in agroecosystems around the world. The lethal and sublethal effects of two widely used fungicides and one adjuvant were assessed in cage studies in California on blue orchard bees, Osmia lignaria, and in cage studies in Utah on alfalfa leafcutting bees, Megachile rotundata. The fungicides tested were Rovral 4F (iprodione) and Pristine (mixture of pyraclostrobin + boscalid), and the adjuvant tested was N-90, a non-ionic wetting agent (90% polyethoxylated nonylphenol) added to certain tank mixtures of fungicides to improve the distribution and contact of sprays to plants. In separate trials, we erected screened cages and released 20 paint-marked females plus 30-50 males per cage to document the behavior of nesting bees under treated and control conditions. For all females in each cage, we recorded pollen-collecting trip times, nest substrate-collecting trip times (i.e., mud for O. lignaria and cut leaf pieces for M. rotundata), cell production rate, and the number of attempts each female made to enter her own or to enter other nest entrances upon returning from a foraging trip. No lethal effects of treatments were observed on adults, nor were there effects on time spent foraging for pollen and nest substrates and on cell production rate. However, Rovral 4F, Pristine, and N-90 disrupted the nest recognition abilities of O. lignaria females. Pristine, N-90, and Pristine + N-90 disrupted nest recognition ability of M. rotundata females. Electroantennogram responses of antennae of O. lignaria females maintained in the laboratory did not differ significantly between the fungicide-exposed and control bees. Our results provide the first empirical evidence that two commonly used fungicides and a non-ionic adjuvant can disrupt nest recognition in two managed solitary bee species.
Project description:Changes in agricultural practice across Europe and North America have been associated with declines in wild bee populations. Bee diet breadth has been associated with sensitivity to agricultural intensification, but much of this analysis has been conducted at the categorical level of generalist or specialist, and it is not clear to what extent the level of generalisation within generalist species is also associated with species persistence. We used pollen load analysis to quantify the pollen diets of wild solitary bees on 19 farms across southern England, UK. A total of 72 species of solitary bees were recorded, but only 31 species were abundant enough to allow for formal diet characterisation. The results broadly conformed to existing literature with the majority of species polylectic and collecting pollen from a wide range of plants. Pollen load analysis consistently identified pollens from more plant species and families from each bee species than direct observation of their foraging behaviour. After rarefaction to standardise pollen load sample sizes, diet breadth was significantly associated with frequency of occurrence, with more generalist bees present on more farms than less generalist bees. Our results show that the majority of bee species present on farmland in reasonable numbers are widely variable in their pollen choices, but that those with the broadest diet were present on the greatest number of farms. Increasing the diversity of plants included in agri-environment schemes may be necessary to provide a wider range of pollen resources in order to support a diverse bee community on farmland.
Project description:Bee populations are currently undergoing severe global declines driven by the interactive effects of a number of factors. Ongoing urbanisation has the potential to exacerbate bee declines, unless steps are taken to ensure appropriate floral resources are available. Sown wildflower strips are one way in which floral resources can be provided to urban bees. However, the use of these strips by pollinators in urban environments remains little studied. Here, we employ pollen metabarcoding of the rbcL gene to compare the foraging patterns of different bee species observed using urban sown wildflower strips in July 2016, with a goal of identifying which plant species are most important for bees. We also demonstrate the use of a non-destructive method of pollen collection. Bees were found to forage on a wide variety of plant genera and families, including a diverse range of plants from outside the wildflower plots, suggesting that foragers visiting sown wildflower strips also utilize other urban habitats. Particular plants within the wildflower strips dominated metabarcoding data, particularly Papaver rhoeas and Phacelia tanacetifolia. Overall, we demonstrate that pollinators observed in sown wildflower strips use certain sown foodplants as part of a larger urban matrix.
Project description:Recent studies have reported interspecific differences in how bee species respond to various stressors. Evaluating the exposure and responses of different bee species to plant protection products is considered an essential part of their risk assessment. This study was conducted to assess the impacts of thiacloprid-prochloraz mixture on buff-tailed bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) and red mason bees (Osmia bicornis) in a worst-case scenario under semi-field conditions. Bumblebee colonies or solitary bee trap nests were confined in tunnels with flowering oilseed rape. The recommended maximum application rates of 72?g thiacloprid/ha and 675?g prochloraz/ha were applied as a tank mixture during bee flight in full flowering oilseed rape. Several parameters such as flight and foraging activity, population parameters, and exposure level were investigated. Our results show adverse effects of the combination of thiacloprid and prochloraz on the reproductive performance of red mason bees. The number of cocoons produced by O. bicornis was significantly reduced in the treatment compared to the control group. Regarding bumblebees, we found no effects of the thiacloprid-prochloraz mixture on any observed parameters of colony development. The maximum detected concentrations of both active substances three days after application were higher in O. bicornis pollen mass compared to B. terrestris stored pollen. We conclude that this worst-case scenario of thiacloprid-prochloraz exposure poses a high risk to solitary bees and thus the use of such mixture should be restricted.
Project description:BACKGROUND AND AIMS:Pollinators often drive the evolution of floral traits, but their capacity to influence the evolution of pollen colour remains unclear. Pollen colour in Campanula americana is variable and displays a longitudinal cline from prevalence of deep purple in western populations to white and light-purple pollen in eastern populations. While selection for thermal tolerance probably underlies darker pollen in the west, factors contributing to the predominance of light pollen in eastern populations and the maintenance of colour variation within populations throughout the range are unknown. Here we examine whether pollinators contribute to the maintenance of pollen colour variation in C. americana. METHODS:In a flight cage experiment, we assessed whether Bombus impatiens foragers can use pollen colour as a reward cue. We then established floral arrays that varied in the frequency of white- and purple-pollen plants in two naturally occurring eastern populations. We observed foraging patterns of wild bees, totalling >1100 individual visits. KEY RESULTS:We successfully trained B. impatiens to prefer one pollen colour morph. In natural populations, the specialist pollinator, Megachile campanulae, displayed a strong and consistent preference for purple-pollen plants regardless of morph frequency. Megachile also exhibited a bias toward pollen-bearing male-phase flowers, and this bias was more pronounced for purple pollen. The other main pollinators, Bombus spp. and small bees, did not display pollen colour preference. CONCLUSIONS:Previous research found that Megachile removes twice as much pollen per visit as other bees and can deplete pollen from natural populations. Taken together, these results suggest that Megachile could reduce the reproductive success of plants with purple pollen, resulting in the prevalence of light-coloured pollen in eastern populations of C. americana. Our research demonstrates that pollinator preferences may play a role in the maintenance of pollen colour variation in natural populations.
Project description:Seemingly mutualistic relationships can be exploited, in some cases reducing fitness of the exploited species. In plants, the insufficient receipt of pollen limits reproduction. While infrequent pollination commonly underlies pollen limitation (PL), frequent interactions with low-efficiency, exploitative pollinators may also cause PL. In the widespread protandrous herb Campanula americana, visitation by three pollinators explained 63% of the variation in PL among populations spanning the range. Bumblebees and the medium-sized Megachile campanulae enhanced reproductive success, but small solitary bees exacerbated PL. To dissect mechanisms behind these relationships, we scored sex-specific floral visitation, and the contributions of each pollinator to plant fitness using single flower visits. Small bees and M. campanulae overvisited male-phase flowers, but bumblebees frequently visited female-phase flowers. Fewer bumblebee visits were required to saturate seed set compared to other bees. Scaling pollinator efficiency metrics to populations, small bees deplete large amounts of pollen due to highly male-biased flower visitation and infrequent pollen deposition. Thus, small bees reduce plant reproduction by limiting pollen available for transfer by efficient pollinators, and appear to exploit the plant-pollinator mutualism, acting as functional parasites to C. americana It is therefore unlikely that small bees will compensate for reproductive failure in C. americana when bumblebees are scarce.
Project description:Solitary bees build their nests by modifying the interior of natural cavities, and they provision them with food by importing collected pollen. As a result, the microbiota of the solitary bee nests may be highly dependent on introduced materials. In order to investigate how the collected pollen is associated with the nest microbiota, we used metabarcoding of the ITS2 rDNA and the 16S rDNA to simultaneously characterize the pollen composition and the bacterial communities of 100 solitary bee nest chambers belonging to seven megachilid species. We found a weak correlation between bacterial and pollen alpha diversity and significant associations between the composition of pollen and that of the nest microbiota, contributing to the understanding of the link between foraging and bacteria acquisition for solitary bees. Since solitary bees cannot establish bacterial transmission routes through eusociality, this link could be essential for obtaining bacterial symbionts for this group of valuable pollinators. Open Research Badges:This article has earned an Open Data Badge for making publicly available the digitally-shareable data necessary to reproduce the reported results. The data is available at https://www.ebi.ac.uk/ena/data/view/PRJEB27223, https://www.ebi.ac.uk/ena/data/view/PRJEB31610, and https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.qk36k8q.