Colony growth of the bumblebee, Bombus terrestris, in improved and conventional agricultural and suburban habitats
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Many bumblebee species are declining at a rapid rate in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. This is commonly attributed to the decline in floral resources that has resulted from an intensification in farming practices. Here we assess growth of nests of the bumblebee, Bombus terrestris, in habitats providing different levels of floral resources. Experimental nests were placed out in conventional farmland, in farmland with flower-rich conservation measures and in suburban areas. Nests gained weight more quickly and attained a larger final size in suburban areas compared to elsewhere. The diversity of pollens gathered by bees was highest in suburban areas, and lowest in conventional farmland. Nests in suburban areas were also more prone to attack by the specialist bumblebee parasite Aphomia sociella, suggesting that this moth is more abundant in suburban areas than elsewhere. Overall, our results demonstrate that gardens provide a greater density and diversity of floral resources than farmland, and probably support larger populations of B. terrestris. Contrary to expectation, schemes deployed to enhance farmland biodiversity appear to have little measurable impact on nest growth of this bumblebee species. We argue that B. terrestris probably forage over a larger scale than that on which farms are managed, so that nest growth is determined by the management of a large number of neighbouring farms, not just that in which the nest is located.
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