Timing of Invasion by Africanized Bees Coincides with Local Extinction of a Specialized Pollinator of a Rare Poppy in Utah, USA

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The introduction of exotic species can have profound impacts on mutualisms between native species in invaded areas. However, determining whether a new invader has impacted native species depends on accurately reconstructing the invasion timing. The arrival of Africanized honey bees (AHB) in southern Utah at some point between 1994 and 2011 has recently been implicated in the local extinction of Perdita meconis, a native specialist pollinator of an endangered poppy, Arctomecon humilis. Although AHBs were purportedly first detected in southern Utah in 2008, their presence in nearby Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico by 1998–2001 suggests that they may have been present in Utah much earlier. We refined the arrival date of AHBs in southern Utah by using a molecular marker to determine maternal ancestry of museum specimens collected between 2000 and 2008. We found that AHBs were present in southern Utah from 2000 onwards, advancing the arrival date of this invader by at least 8 years. This lends credence to the hypothesis that AHBs played a critical role in the local extinction of P. meconis in Utah. This work also highlights the importance of vouchering even common species such as honey bees in museum collections to serve future research needs.

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