Bee foraging ranges and their relationship to body size


Bees are the most important pollinator taxon; therefore, understanding the scale at which they forage has important ecological implications and conservation applications. The foraging ranges for most bee species are unknown. Foraging distance information is critical for understanding the scale at which bee populations respond to the landscape, assessing the role of bee pollinators in affecting plant population structure, planning conservation strategies for plants, and designing bee habitat refugia that maintain pollination function for wild and crop plants. We used data from 96 records of 62 bee species to determine whether body size predicts foraging distance. We regressed maximum and typical foraging distances on body size and found highly significant and explanatory nonlinear relationships. We used a second data set to: (1) compare observed reports of foraging distance to the distances predicted by our regression equations and (2) assess the biases inherent to the different techniques that have been used to assess foraging distance. The equations we present can be used to predict foraging distances for many bee species, based on a simple measurement of body size.

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John Ascher provided updates to bee species names. B. Danforth provided comments on the manuscript. T. Good translated selected research papers from German to English. C O’Toole provided unpublished data. We measured IT span on specimens provided by the American Museum of Natural History (New York, NY), the Bohart Museum of the University of California (Davis, CA), the USDA Bee Biology and Systematics lab (Logan, UT) and the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, DC). Funding was provided by an Environmental Protection Agency Science to Achieve Results Fellowship to SSG, a David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship to NMW, a postdoctoral fellowship from the Princeton Council on Science and Technology to RW, a McDonnell 21st Century Research Award to CK, and the Princeton University Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department.

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Correspondence to Sarah S. Greenleaf.

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Communicated by Richard Karban.

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Greenleaf, S.S., Williams, N.M., Winfree, R. et al. Bee foraging ranges and their relationship to body size. Oecologia 153, 589–596 (2007).

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  • Body size
  • Foraging distance
  • Apoidea
  • Bee
  • Pollination