Bumblebee nest density and the scale of available forage in arable landscapes

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Knight, M. E., Osborne, J. L., Sanderson, R. A., Hale, R. J., Martin, A. P. and Goulson, D. 2009. Bumblebee nest density and the scale of available forage in arable landscapes. Insect Conservation and Diversity. 2 (2), pp. 116-124. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1752-4598.2009.00049.x

AuthorsKnight, M. E., Osborne, J. L., Sanderson, R. A., Hale, R. J., Martin, A. P. and Goulson, D.

Combining the needs of agricultural production with enhancing biodiversity requires a landscape-scale approach since the geographic scale at which most non-farmed species operate is unconstrained by farm boundaries. Bumblebees are a key component of farmland biodiversity as pollinators of both crops and wild flora. However, the factors determining their densities in such landscapes remain poorly understood. Using a combination of remote-sensed landscape data and molecular markers, we quantify the effects of land use (oilseed rape, field beans and non-cropped areas, all of which provide suitable bumblebee forage), at various spatial scales to find the best predictor of colony density for the bumblebee Bombus pascuorum Scopoli in an arable landscape. Estimated colony density was positively correlated with the area of all habitat categories within 1000 m of the sample site. No significant relationships were found for greater or lesser distances. This concurs with earlier estimates of the foraging range of this species. We found no evidence that nest sizes increased with forage availability, although our data do not allow us to categorically exclude this possibility. It has long been suspected that forage availability limits bee abundance in agricultural landscapes but there is little direct evidence for this. Here we report a direct relationship between floral abundance and bumblebee nest density within a notionally fixed area. Importantly, we suggest that the forage availability within the previously published estimated foraging distance for this species at this location is a good predictor of the scale of impact of forage provision on nesting density.

Keywordsbiodiversity conservation; Entomology
Year of Publication2009
JournalInsect Conservation and Diversity
Journal citation2 (2), pp. 116-124
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1752-4598.2009.00049.x
Open accessPublished as non-open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeSEF
Spatial modelling of Bombus terrestris and B. pascuorum populations in agricultural landscapes
Project: 4824
Functional biodiversity: mechanisms by which plant and invertebrate communities function in the arable ecosystem
Grant IDD16963

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