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Leafcutter bee preference of plant saplings in plant nurseries: context for future research and conservation

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Abstract

Global pollinator decline has prompted pollinator conservation initiatives. Plant nurseries exploited this opportunity by selling bee-friendly ornamental plants. Studies that analysed flower-pollinator networks questioned the suitability of ornamental plants for bee conservation. We evaluated plant nurseries from the perspective of the leaf-foraging habit of leafcutter bees. Leafcutter bees use leaves to construct brood chambers. We found evidence for leafcutter bees using the leaves of 9% of plant species (n = 238). Bees foraged ornamental and horticultural plant saplings similarly. Plant species preference was driven by plant clade and plant height. The proportion of plant saplings used by bees in the nurseries was associated with plant abundance and the proportion of ornamental plants. Results provide context for new perceptions toward ornamental plants and plant nurseries for pollinator conservation and restoration and ask questions on the ecology and evolution of leafcutter bee–plant interaction.

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The data will be shared to the readers upon a genuine request.

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We used R program for all statistical analyses. Codes of the statistical models used in the present research can be obtained from the section “Statistical analyses”.

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Acknowledgements

PAS thanks SERB for a research grant (CRG/7170/AS) which partially met the travel costs of the project. We thank R. Ramasubbu for determining plant species. We also thank the two anonymous referees and Rajendran K.V. for their critical comments into the manuscript.

Funding

The work was supported by Science Engineering Research Board through a core research grant (7170) awarded to PAS.

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PAS conceived the study; PAS and VA conducted field work; VA curated data; PAS did analyses and wrote the manuscript that all authors have approved.

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Correspondence to Palatty Allesh Sinu.

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Sinu, P.A., Aiswarya, V. Leafcutter bee preference of plant saplings in plant nurseries: context for future research and conservation. Apidologie 54, 55 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13592-023-01039-3

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