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Differences of floral resource use between honey bees and wild bees in an intensive farming system

Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment


Bees provide an essential pollination service for crops and wild plants. However, substantial declines in bee populations and diversity have been observed in Europe and North America for the past 50 years, partly due to the loss of natural habitats and reduction of plant diversity resulting from agricultural intensification. To mitigate the negative effects of agricultural intensification, agri-environmental schemes (AES) have been proposed to sustain bees and others pollinators in agrosystems. AES include the preservation of semi-natural habitats such as grasslands, fallows, woodlots, hedgerows or set-aside field margins. However, empirical evidence suggest that the use of those semi-natural habitats by bees may vary greatly among bee functional groups and may further be influenced by the presence of alternative foraging habitats such as mass-flowering crops. The present study sets out to investigate whether the three bee groups typically targeted by AES (honey bees, bumble bees and other wild bees) differ in the way they use those semi-natural habitats relative to common mass-flowering crops (oilseed rape, sunflower, alfalfa) in an intensive agricultural farming system. A clear segregation pattern in the use of floral resources appeared between honey bees and wild bees, with the former being tightly associated with mass-flowering crops and the latter with semi-natural habitats. Bumble bees had an intermediate strategy and behaved as habitat generalists. Therefore, it would be sensible to treat the three bee groups with distinct AES management strategies, and to further consider potential effects on AES efficiency of alternative foraging habitats in the surrounding. This study also stresses the importance of native floral resources, particularly in semi-natural herbaceous habitats, for sustaining wild bee populations. (C) 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Author(s): Rollin, O; Bretagnolle, V; Decourtye, A; Aptel, J; Michel, N; Vaissiere, BE; Henry, M

Journal: Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment

Year: 2013


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