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Bienen im Fokus von Wissenschaft und Politik
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Background: Honeybees provide economically and ecologically vital pollination services to crops and wild plants. During the last decade elevated colony losses have been documented in Europe and North America. Despite growing consensus on the involvement of multiple causal factors, the underlying interactions impacting on honeybee health and colony failure are not fully resolved. Parasites and pathogens are among the main candidates, but sublethal exposure to widespread agricultural pesticides may also affect bees. Methodology/principal findings: To investigate effects of sublethal dietary neonicotinoid exposure on honeybee colony performance, a fully crossed experimental design was implemented using 24 colonies, including sister-queens from two different strains, and experimental in-hive pollen feeding with or without environmentally relevant concentrations of thiamethoxam and clothianidin. Honeybee colonies chronically exposed to both neonicotinoids over two brood cycles exhibited decreased performance in the short-term resulting in declining numbers of adult bees (-28%) and brood (-13%), as well as a reduction in honey production (-29%) and pollen collections (-19%), but colonies recovered in the medium-term and overwintered successfully. However, significantly decelerated growth of neonicotinoid-exposed colonies during the following spring was associated with queen failure, revealing previously undocumented long-term impacts of neonicotinoids: queen supersedure was observed for 60% of the neonicotinoid-exposed colonies within a one year period, but not for control colonies. Linked to this, neonicotinoid exposure was significantly associated with a reduced propensity to swarm during the next spring. Both short-term and long-term effects of neonicotinoids on colony performance were significantly influenced by the honeybees' genetic background. Conclusions/significance: Sublethal neonicotinoid exposure did not provoke increased winter losses. Yet, significant detrimental short and long-term impacts on colony performance and queen fate suggest that neonicotinoids may contribute to colony weakening in a complex manner. Further, we highlight the importance of the genetic basis of neonicotinoid susceptibility in honeybees which can vary substantially.
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Meaningful ecological studies on insect communities require sampling protocols that take into consideration temporal fluctuations in abundance and species composition. Bees with their specific requirements for nutrition and nesting are good indica- tors of landscape structure and overall biodiversity, provided the ecological and seasonal patterns they show are taken into consid- eration. The present two year study traced the ecological and seasonal patterns on 2 km2 of a southern slope in the Swiss Alps, ranging from 1150 to 1550 m above sea level. The study area consisted mainly of grassland under different regimes, mostly hay meadows and pastures. By direct netting at five monthly intervals in each year a total of 247 bee species were recorded. This com- prehensive sampling scheme identified one of the most diverse bee faunas in Central and Northern Europe, consisting of a statisti- cally estimated 280 species. Most species were rare with 14.6% represented by a single individual. Ecological analysis of the bee community showed that the primitively eusocial species were over represented among the abundant species and the parasitic species among the rarest. Both abundance and species richness were subject to marked seasonal variations. A substantial turnover in species composition as well as changes in ecological patterns were observed. More than 25% of all species were recorded in only one of the two years, in particular many of the parasitic species. Singletons accounted for a higher proportion when individual years rather than the pooled data were analysed. All these findings underline the importance of season-long sampling and sampling over more than one year if bees are to be used as indicators in ecological and studies on bee communities.
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Diversity and abundance of wild-insect pollinators have declined in many agricultural landscapes. Whether such declines reduce crop yields, or are mitigated by managed pollinators such as honey bees, is unclear. Here, we show universally positive associations of fruit set with wild-insect visits to flowers in 41 crop systems worldwide, and thus clearly demonstrate their agricultural value. In contrast, fruit set increased significantly with visitation by honey bees in only 14% of the systems surveyed. Overall, wild insects pollinated crops more effectively, because increase in their visitation enhanced fruit set by twice as much as an equivalent increase in honey bee visitation. Further, visitation by wild insects and honey bees promoted fruit set independently, so high abundance of managed honey bees supplemented, rather than substituted for, pollination by wild insects. Our results suggest that new practices for integrated management of both honey bees and diverse wild-insect assemblages will enhance global crop yields.
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Knowledge about the quantitative pollen requirements of solitary bees is crucial for the preservation of endangered bee species and the understanding of the evolution of bee–flower relationships. We estimate the number of flowers required to rear a single larva for 41 European bee species (i) by comparing the pollen content of brood cells with the pollen quantity contained in the flowers of the bees’ host plants and (ii) by deducing the pollen requirements from a regression model describing the relationship between the average bee dry body mass and the average brood cell pollen content. The flower requirements of the bee species examined vary by three orders of magnitude. Depending on both bee species and host plant, from seven to 1100 flowers or from 0.9 to 4.5 flower heads are needed to rear a single larva. As only about 40% of the pollen contained in a flower was found to be available to a single female bee, these minimal figures have to be multiplied by a factor of approximately 2.5 to obtain a realistic estimate of bee flower requirements. The amount of pollen lost from flowers for bee nutrition is surprisingly high. We hypothesize that the recent decline of many bee species may have its main cause in a food shortage provoked by a decrease in flower diversity and quantity following habitat destruction and modern agricultural practices. The substantial pollen losses to bees as documented in this study support earlier findings on floral adaptations against excessive pollen harvesting by bees.
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Pollination by bees and other animals increases the size, quality, or stability of harvests for 70% of leading global crops. Because native species pollinate many of these crops effectively, conserving habitats for wild pollinators within agricultural landscapes can help maintain pollination services. Using hierarchical Bayesian techniques, we synthesize the results of 23 studies – representing 16 crops on five continents – to estimate the general relationship between pollination services and distance from natural or semi-natural habitats. We find strong exponential declines in both pollinator richness and native visitation rate. Visitation rate declines more steeply, dropping to half of its maximum at 0.6 km from natural habitat, compared to 1.5 km for richness. Evidence of general decline in fruit and seed set – variables that directly affect yields – is less clear. Visitation rate drops more steeply in tropical compared with temperate regions, and slightly more steeply for social compared with solitary bees. Tropical crops pollinated primarily by social bees may therefore be most susceptible to pollination failure from habitat loss. Quantifying these general relationships can help predict consequences of land use change on pollinator communities and crop productivity, and can inform landscape conservation efforts that balance the needs of native species and people.
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In diverse pollinator communities, interspecific interactions may modify the behaviour and increase the pollination effectiveness of individual species. Because agricultural production reliant on pollination is growing, improving pollination effectiveness could increase crop yield without any increase in agricultural intensity or area. In California almond, a crop highly dependent on honey bee pollination, we explored the foraging behaviour and pollination effectiveness of honey bees in orchards with simple (honey bee only) and diverse (non-Apis bees present) bee communities. In orchards with non-Apis bees, the foraging behaviour of honey bees changed and the pollination effectiveness of a single honey bee visit was greater than in orchards where non-Apis bees were absent. This change translated to a greater proportion of fruit set in these orchards. Our field experiments show that increased pollinator diversity can synergistically increase pollination service, through species interactions that alter the behaviour and resulting functional quality of a dominant pollinator species. These results of functional synergy between species were supported by an additional controlled cage experiment with Osmia lignaria and Apis mellifera. Our findings highlight a largely unexplored facilitative component of the benefit of biodiversity to ecosystem services, and represent a way to improve pollinator-dependent crop yields in a sustainable manner.
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Sustainable agricultural landscapes by definition provide high magnitude and stability of ecosystem services, biodiversity and crop productivity. However, few studies have considered landscape effects on the stability of ecosystem services. We tested whether isolation from florally diverse natural and semi-natural areas reduces the spatial and temporal stability of flower-visitor richness and pollination services in crop fields. We synthesised data from 29 studies with contrasting biomes, crop species and pollinator communities. Stability of flower-visitor richness, visitation rate (all insects except honey bees) and fruit set all decreased with distance from natural areas. At 1 km from adjacent natural areas, spatial stability decreased by 25, 16 and 9% for richness, visitation and fruit set, respectively, while temporal stability decreased by 39% for richness and 13% for visitation. Mean richness, visitation and fruit set also decreased with isolation, by 34, 27 and 16% at 1 km respectively. In contrast, honey bee visitation did not change with isolation and represented > 25% of crop visits in 21 studies. Therefore, wild pollinators are relevant for crop productivity and stability even when honey bees are abundant. Policies to preserve and restore natural areas in agricultural landscapes should enhance levels and reliability of pollination services.