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Title: Evidence of exploitative competition between honey bees and native bees in two California landscapes

Human‐mediated species introductions provide real‐time experiments in how communities respond to interspecific competition. For example, managed honey beesApis mellifera(L.) have been widely introduced outside their native range and may compete with native bees for pollen and nectar. Indeed, multiple studies suggest that honey bees and native bees overlap in their use of floral resources. However, for resource overlap to negatively impact resource collection by native bees, resource availability must also decline, and few studies investigate impacts of honey bee competition on native bee floral visits and floral resource availability simultaneously.

In this study, we investigate impacts of increasing honey bee abundance on native bee visitation patterns, pollen diets, and nectar and pollen resource availability in two Californian landscapes: wildflower plantings in the Central Valley and montane meadows in the Sierra.

We collected data on bee visits to flowers, pollen and nectar availability, and pollen carried on bee bodies across multiple sites in the Sierra and Central Valley. We then constructed plant‐pollinator visitation networks to assess how increasing honey bee abundance impacted perceived apparent competition (PAC), a measure of niche overlap, and pollinator specialization (d'). We also compared PAC values against null expectations to address whether observed changes in niche overlap were greater or less than what we would expect given the relative abundances of interacting partners.

We find clear evidence of exploitative competition in both ecosystems based on the following results: (1) honey bee competition increased niche overlap between honey bees and native bees, (2) increased honey bee abundance led to decreased pollen and nectar availability in flowers, and (3) native bee communities responded to competition by shifting their floral visits, with some becoming more specialized and others becoming more generalized depending on the ecosystem and bee taxon considered.

Although native bees can adapt to honey bee competition by shifting their floral visits, the coexistence of honey bees and native bees is tenuous and will depend on floral resource availability. Preserving and augmenting floral resources is therefore essential in mitigating negative impacts of honey bee competition. In two California ecosystems, honey bee competition decreases pollen and nectar resource availability in flowers and alters native bee diets with potential implications for bee conservation and wildlands management.

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Author(s) / Creator(s):
Publisher / Repository:
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Animal Ecology
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 1802-1814
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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