Evidence for competition between honeybees and bumblebees; effects on bumblebee worker size

Abstract

Numerous studies suggest that honeybees may compete with native pollinators where introduced as non-native insects. Here we examine evidence for competition between honeybees and four bumblebee species in Scotland, a region that may be within the natural range of honeybees, but where domestication greatly increases the honeybee population. We examined mean thorax widths (a reliable measure of body size) of workers of Bombus pascuorum, B. lucorum, B. lapidarius and B. terrestris at sites with and without honeybees. Workers of all four species were significantly smaller in areas with honeybees. We suggest that reduced worker size is likely to have implications for bumblebee colony success. These results imply that, for conservation purposes, some restrictions should be considered with regard to placing honeybee hives in or near areas where populations of rare bumblebee species persist.

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Acknowledgement

Thanks to Jennifer Harrison-Cripps who helped with the initial bee survey.

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Correspondence to David Goulson.

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Goulson, D., Sparrow, K.R. Evidence for competition between honeybees and bumblebees; effects on bumblebee worker size. J Insect Conserv 13, 177–181 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10841-008-9140-y

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Keywords

  • Bombus
  • Apis mellifera
  • Floral resources
  • Foraging
  • Resource limitation