Wild bumble bee foraging preferences and fat content in highbush blueberry agro-ecosystems
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Agricultural intensification can impact the availability and quality of resources. We analyzed resource use by bumble bees (Bombus spp.), important pollinators of highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), collected from conventional highbush blueberry farms, organic highbush blueberry farms, and nearby natural areas in the lower Fraser River valley of British Columbia, Canada. We identified corbicular pollen and measured bee fat content as an indicator of body condition. Bumble bees use non-crop resources, including pollen from plant species not found on farms. Bees from natural areas had higher pollen protein content in corbicular pollen and higher body fat content than those from conventional and organic farms. There was no difference between farm types, and we could not demonstrate a relationship between pollen protein and bee fat content. Our findings illustrate the importance of resource availability throughout agro-ecological landscapes, including not only farms but also off-farm areas.
KeywordsBombus pollen analysis pollinator body condition Vaccinium corymbosum
T. Haapalainen provided field assistance, and T. Williams, A. Cornell, and J. Yap assisted with lipid extraction protocols. Multiple farmers, the City of Abbotsford, and the Metro Vancouver Regional Parks provided site access.
MT and EE conceived this research and designed the experiments. MT performed the research and analyzed the data with input from EE. MT wrote the paper, and EE participated in the revisions. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Funding was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (grant to EE), the USDA-NIFA Specialty Crop Research Initiative Grant (#2012-51181-20105) to the Integrated Crop Pollination Project, and the Northwest Scientific Association (grant to MT).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no potential conflict of interest in relation to the study in this paper.
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