Assessing the impacts of European honey bee (Apis mellifera) introduction on native bees in prairie ecosystems
Kemper, Jack D.
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The reproductive success of European honey bees is dependent on their foraging abilities and competitive abilities against other foragers. Experimental population manipulations were conducted to assess the impacts of honey bee presence on their biggest competitors, native bee species. Over a five-week period, 618 bees were collected belonging to 22 genera and 5 families. In a Michigan prairie ecosystem rich with floral resources and native bees, artificially increasing the population of honey bees through hive introduction was correlated with a significant decrease in the population of native bees. Interestingly, while evidence would suggest that honey bees displace native bees to areas farther away from the introduced hive, the results at hand show no significant distance effects, in fact the opposite trend was noted – native bees remained abundant near the source of honey bee competitors. Although incidences of aggressive interactions between honey bees and native bees were rare, it is likely that colony size, communication tactics, and partitioning of labor give honey bees a competitive edge over native bees that can potentially limit floral resource supply available to natives. Ultimately, these competitive effects could hinder the reproductive success of our native pollinators.