Do competing honey bees matter? Dynamics and abundance of native bees before and after honey bee invasion
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To provide replicate samples of local bee populations in a nature preserve, light traps operated continuously on Barro Colorado Island (BCI), Panama, collected bees for 17 years, including 10 years following invasion by African Apis mellifera. Honey bees appeared in light traps as the first swarms colonized the Panama Canal area. Their numbers followed seasonal trends shown in inde-pendent studies, thus indicating bee abundance and activity in a large area. No measurable population-level impact of competition between this invading honey bee and native bees, despite many demonstrations of resource competition at flower patch and colony levels, changed annual abundances of all 15 native bee species. Native bee abundance did not decrease, nor did native bees show substantial reciprocal yearly change with honey bee abundance. One strong negative correlation of bee catches with an extremely rainy year was found. However, multiple regression using rainfall and honey bee abundance as the independent variables showed that neither was responsible for bee population change over 17 years. Nearly half the native species declined during a year that displayed peak honey bee number. That competition from honey bees on an island the size of BCI was necessarily reduced below impact levels expected on the mainland is discussed using a model of resource and consumer density, foraging range, and island size.
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