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Pollen specialization by solitary bees in an urban landscape

Abstract

Many polylectic bee species are known to specialize locally on one or a few pollen types to increase foraging efficiency. What is relatively unknown is how different landscapes influence foraging decisions, and whether habitat alteration, such as that resulting from urbanization, influences broad-scale foraging activities of bees. This study evaluates the type and diversity of pollen collected by two solitary bees that are common in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the native Osmia pumila and the exotic O. caerulescens, sampled in trap nests set up in urban parks and gardens. We found that the dominant pollen in every successful brood cell was either of one widespread, cosmopolitan lawn-invasive plant species (Trifolium repens) or one of two wind-pollinated tree genera (Quercus spp. and Betula spp.). In combination, these three represented more than 90 % of all pollen collected by each bee species. Despite considerable overlap in the dominant pollen types collected by each bee species, the exotic O. caerulescens was significantly more specialized than the native O. pumila. Brood cells with Betula as the dominant pollen type were more pollen species-rich than those cells having Trifolium or Quercus as dominant, perhaps a result of the comparatively low protein content in Betula pollen.

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Acknowledgements

We thank labmates Sheila Dumesh, Veronica Ladico and Racquel DaCosta for help with photography, trap nest building and specimen sorting, Dr. Cory Sheffield for advice on pollen staining, and Dr. Jock McAndrews for pollen identity confirmation. Funding was obtained from a National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Alexander Graham Bell Graduate Scholarship awarded to JSM, an NSERC Discovery Grant to LP, and grants from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the Ontario Research Fund (ORF) awarded to Canadensys for the imaging system.

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Correspondence to J. S. MacIvor.

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MacIvor, J.S., Cabral, J.M. & Packer, L. Pollen specialization by solitary bees in an urban landscape. Urban Ecosyst 17, 139–147 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11252-013-0321-4

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Keywords

  • Osmia
  • Exotic species
  • Trap nests
  • Pollen nutritional content
  • Wind pollination