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Following the dance: Ground survey of flowers and flower-visiting insects in a summer foraging hotspot identified via honey bee waggle dance decoding

Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment


Decoding of honey bee waggle dances has previously shown that average foraging distances are longest during July and August in Sussex, United Kingdom, indicating a scarcity of summer floral resources. However, it also identified a summer foraging 'hotspot' in agricultural land at 2-3 km distance. Unfortunately, dance decoding does not yield precise foraging locations or information on the flower species visited. Therefore, we surveyed this hotspot during July and August 2012 and 2013 in order to identify the habitats and flower species used by honey bees and other flower-visiting insects (EVI). The hotspot area consisted predominantly of four habitat types potentially attractive to EV!: pasture fields, field margins/hedgerows of arable fields, set-aside and a National Nature Reserve. We surveyed three fields within each habitat type. The abundance of flowers was found to be a key determent of EVI abundance per field (p = 0.002). Field margins/hedgerows were the most flower abundant habitat type (p = 0.002) and had more than twice (235%) the FVI abundance (p = 0.001) and species richness (p = 0.035) per unit area than did pasture fields. Areas with long grass had greater flower abundance (p <0.001) and FVI species richness (p = 0.009) than those with short grass (<30 cm). The five plants on which we recorded the greatest number of EVI were species considered to be agricultural weeds. Honey bees represented 19% of all EVI, showing that dance decoding had located a hotspot that was an important foraging location not just for honey bees but also for other types of EVI. Honey bee abundance, per transect, was strongly correlated with that of other FVI (p = 0.001), particularly bumble bees (p <0.001). However, Mil groups were not found uniformly across our study site and honey bee abundance was only weakly linked to overall species richness (p = 0.069). (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Author(s): Balfour, NJ; Fensome, KA; Samuelson, EEW; Ratnieks, FLW

Journal: Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment

Year: 2015