Competition between honey bees and wild bees and the role of nesting resources in a nature reserve

Research paper by Anika Hudewenz, Alexandra-Maria Klein

Indexed on: 17 Nov '13Published on: 17 Nov '13Published in: Journal of Insect Conservation


The European honey bee exploits floral resources efficiently and may therefore compete with solitary wild bees. Hence, conservationists and bee keepers are debating about the consequences of beekeeping for the conservation of wild bees in nature reserves. We observed flower-visiting bees on flowers of Calluna vulgaris in sites differing in the distance to the next honey-bee hive and in sites with hives present and absent in the Lüneburger Heath, Germany. Additionally, we counted wild bee ground nests in sites that differ in their distance to the next hive and wild bee stem nests and stem-nesting bee species in sites with hives present and absent. We did not observe fewer honey bees or higher wild bee flower visits in sites with different distances to the next hive (up to 1,229 m). However, wild bees visited fewer flowers and honey bee visits increased in sites containing honey-bee hives and in sites containing honey-bee hives we found fewer stem-nesting bee species. The reproductive success, measured as number of nests, was not affected by distance to honey-bee hives or their presence but by availability and characteristics of nesting resources. Our results suggest that beekeeping in the Lüneburg Heath can affect the conservation of stem-nesting bee species richness but not the overall reproduction either of stem-nesting or of ground-nesting bees. Future experiments need control sites with larger distances than 500 m to hives. Until more information is available, conservation efforts should forgo to enhance honey bee stocking rates but enhance the availability of nesting resources.