Assessing pollinators’ use of floral resource subsidies in agri-environment schemes: An illustration using Phacelia tanacetifolia and honeybees
Sprague, R.; Boyer, Stephane; Stevenson, G. M.; Wratten, S. D.
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Citation:Sprague, R., Boyer, S., Stevenson, G. M., & Wratten, S. D. (2016). Assessing pollinators’ use of floral resource subsidies in agri-environment schemes: An illustration using Phacelia tanacetifolia and honeybees. PeerJ, 4, pp.e2677. doi:10.7717/peerj.2677
Permanent link to Research Bank record:http://hdl.handle.net/10652/3764
BACKGROUND: Honeybees (Apis mellifera L.) are frequently used in agriculture for pollination services because of their abundance, generalist floral preferences, ease of management and hive transport. However, their populations are declining in many countries. Agri-Environment Schemes (AES) are being implemented in agricultural systems to combat the decline in populations of pollinators and other insects. Despite AES being increasingly embedded in policy and budgets, scientific assessments of many of these schemes still are lacking, and only a few studies have examined the extent to which insect pollinators use the floral enhancements that are part of AES and on which floral components they feed (i.e., pollen and/or nectar). METHODS: In the present work, we used a combination of observations on honeybee foraging for nectar/pollen from the Californian annual plant Phacelia tanacetifolia in the field, collection of pollen pellets from hives, and pollen identification, to assess the value of adding phacelia to an agro-ecosystem to benefit honeybees. RESULTS: It was found that phacelia pollen was almost never taken by honeybees. The work here demonstrates that honeybees may not use the floral enhancements added to a landscape as expected and points to the need for more careful assessments of what resources are used by honeybees in AES and understanding the role, if any, which AES play in enhancing pollinator fitness. DISCUSSION: We recommend using the methodology in this paper to explore the efficacy of AES before particular flowering species are adopted more widely to give a more complete illustration of the actual efficacy of AES