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Population demography of Australian feral bees (Apis mellifera)


Honey-bees are widespread as feral animals in Australia. Their impact on Australian ecosystems is difficult to assess, but may include competition with native fauna for floral resources or nesting sites, or inadequate or inappropriate pollination of native flora. In this 3-year study we examined the demography of the feral bee population in the riparian woodland of Wyperfeld National Park in north-west Victoria. The population is very large but varied considerably in size (50–150 colonies/km2) during the study period (1992–1995). The expected colony lifespan for an established colony is 6.6 years, that for a founder colony (new swarm), 2.7 years. The population is expected to be stable if each colony produces 0.75 swarms per year, which is less than the number predicted on the basis of other studies (2–3 swarms/colony per year). Therefore, the population has considerable capacity for increase. Most colony deaths occurred in the summer, possibly due to high temperatures and lack of water. Colonies showed considerable spatial aggregation, agreeing with earlier findings. When all colonies were eradicated from two 5-ha sites, the average rate of re-occupation was 15 colonies/km2 per year. Ten swarms of commercial origin were released and were found to have similar survival rates to founder colonies. However, the feral population is self-sustaining, and does not require immigration from the domestic population.

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Received: 2 September 1996 / Accepted: 26 March 1997

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Oldroyd, B., Thexton, E., Lawler, S. et al. Population demography of Australian feral bees (Apis mellifera). Oecologia 111, 381–387 (1997).

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  • Key words Demography
  • Population dynamics
  • Swarming
  • Reproductive rate
  • Honey bee