, Volume 149, Issue 2, pp 289–300 | Cite as

Bumblebees experience landscapes at different spatial scales: possible implications for coexistence

  • Catrin WestphalEmail author
  • Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter
  • Teja Tscharntke
Community Ecology


Coexistence in bumblebee communities has largely been investigated at local spatial scales. However, local resource partitioning does not fully explain the species diversity of bumblebee communities. Theoretical studies provide new evidence that partitioning of space can promote species coexistence, when species interact with their environment at different spatial scales. If bumblebee species possess specific foraging ranges, different spatial resource utilisation patterns might operate as an additional mechanism of coexistence in bumblebee communities. We investigated the effects of the landscape-wide availability of different resources (mass flowering crops and semi-natural habitats) on the local densities of four bumblebee species at 12 spatial scales (landscape sectors with 250–3,000 m radius) to indirectly identify the spatial scales at which the bumblebees perceive their environment. The densities of all bumblebee species were enhanced in landscapes with high proportions of mass flowering crops (mainly oilseed rape). We found the strongest effects for Bombus terrestris agg. and Bombus lapidarius at large spatial scales, implying foraging distances of 3,000 and 2,750 m, respectively. The densities of Bombus pascuorum were most strongly influenced at a medium spatial scale (1,000 m), and of Bombus pratorum (with marginal significance) at a small spatial scale (250 m). The estimated foraging ranges tended to be related to body and colony sizes, indicating that larger species travel over larger distances than smaller species, presumably enabling them to build up larger colonies through a better exploitation of food resources. We conclude that coexistence in bumblebee communities could potentially be mediated by species-specific differences in the spatial resource utilisation patterns, which should be considered in conservation schemes.


Bombus spp. Pollination Foraging ranges Coexistence Resource partitioning 



We are grateful to J. Bronstein, T. Palmer, N. Waser, W. Kunin, and two anonymous referees for comments on earlier versions of this manuscript, R. Trilck, M. Pauly, and H. Westphal for assistance in the field, C. Bürger for supporting GIS analyses, and the 16 farmers for providing the field sites. This work was supported by the Scholarship Program of the German Federal Environmental Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catrin Westphal
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter
    • 1
  • Teja Tscharntke
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AgroecologyUniversity of GöttingenGöttingenGermany

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