, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 179-189

Do exotic bumblebees and honeybees compete with native flower-visiting insects in Tasmania?

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Abstract

Honeybees, Apis mellifera, have been introduced by man throughout the globe. More recently, other bee species including various bumblebees (Bombus spp.) have been introduced to several new regions. Here we examine the impacts of honeybees and the bumblebee, Bombus terrestris, on native flower-visiting insects in Tasmania. To assess whether native insects have lower abundance or are excluded in areas that have been colonised by exotic bees, we quantified the abundance, diversity and floral preferences of flower-visiting insects at sites where bumblebees and honeybees were present, and compared them to sites where they were absent. This was achieved by hand searches at 67 sites, and by deploying sticky traps at 122 sites. Honeybees were by far the most abundant bee species overall, and dominated the bee fauna at most sites. There was considerable niche overlap between honeybees, bumblebees and native bees in terms of the flowers that they visited. Sites where bumblebees were established had similar species richness, diversity and abundance of native flower-visiting insects compared to sites where bumblebees were absent. In contrast, native bees were more than three times more abundant at the few sites where honeybees were absent, compared to those where they were present. Our results are suggestive of competition between honeybees and native bees, but exclusion experiments are needed to provide a definitive test.