Impact of honeybee (Apis mellifera L.) density on wild bee foraging behaviour

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Honey bees are globally regarded as important crop pollinators and are also valued for their honey production. They have been introduced on an almost worldwide scale. During recent years, however, several studies argue their possible competition with unmanaged pollinators. Here we examine the possible effects of honey bees on the foraging behaviour of wild bees on Cistus creticus flowers in Northern Greece. We gradually introduced one, five, and eight honey-bee hives per site, each containing ca. 20,000 workers. The visitation frequency and visit duration of wild bees before and after the beehive introductions were measured by flower observation. While the visitation frequencies of wild bees were unaffected, the average time wild bees spent on C. creticus increased with the introduction of the honey-bee hives. Although competition between honey bees and wild bees is often expected, we did not find any clear evidence for significant effects even in honey-bee densities much higher than the European-wide average of 3.1 colonies/km2.

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