Small local population sizes and high habitat patch fidelity in a specialised solitary bee
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Andrena hattorfiana is a rare solitary bee which has declined during the last decades throughout western Europe. It is specialised to forage pollen from plants of the family Dipsacaceae. Knowledge of distribution, dispersal propensity, and local population sizes is essential for successful conservation of A. hattorfiana. The investigated local bee populations (n = 78) were dominated by small local populations and 60% were smaller than 10 female individuals and 80% were smaller than 50 female individuals. The area of the median occupied habitat patch was 1.25 hectare and harboured 7 female bees. Mark-release-recapture studies of female A. hattorfiana revealed a sedentary behaviour. Among pollen-foraging female bees the average registered distance moved was 46 m. The patch emigration rate was about 2%, with an observed maximum colonization distance of 900 m. Only 10% of the individuals crossed areas without the pollen plant within grassland patches, such as unpaved roads, stone walls and small tree-stands, even if these areas were less than 10 m wide. This study shows that solitary bees can occur in local populations of extremely small size and they have a sedentary behaviour. These are features that usually increase the risk of local population extinction.