Indexed on: 14 Mar '16Published on: 19 Nov '15Published in: Basic and Applied Ecology
Due to the contribution of honey bees (Apis mellifera) to wild flower and crop pollination, beekeeping has traditionally been considered a sustainable practice. However, high honey bee densities may have an impact on local pollen and nectar availability, which in turn may negatively affect other pollinators. This is exacerbated by the ability of honey bees to recruit foragers to highly rewarding flower patches. We measured floral resource consumption in rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and thyme (Thymus vulgaris) in 21 plots located at different distances from apiaries in the scrubland of Garraf Natural Park (Barcelona), and related these measures to visitation rates of honey bees, bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) and other pollinators. In the same plots, we measured flower density, and used pan traps to characterize the wild bee community. Flower resource consumption was largely explained by honey bee visitation and marginally by bumblebee visitation. After accounting for flower density, plots close to apiaries had lower wild bee biomass. This was due to a lower abundance of large bee species, those more likely to be affected by honey bee competition. We conclude that honey bees are the main contributors to pollen/nectar consumption of the two main flowering plants in the scrubland, and that at the densities currently occurring in the park (3.5 hives/km2) the wild bee community is being affected. Our study supports the hypothesis that high honey bee densities may have an impact on other pollinators via competition for flower resources.