Conservation Conundrum: At-risk Bumble Bees (Bombus spp.) Show Preference for Invasive Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca) While Foraging in Protected Areas
Gibson, Shelby D
Liczner, Amanda R
Colla, Sheila R
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In recent decades, some bumble bee species have declined, including in North America. Declines have been reported in species of bumble bees historically present in Ontario, including: yellow bumble bee (Bombus fervidus) (Fabricus, 1798), American bumble bee (Bombus pensylvanicus) (DeGeer, 1773), and yellow-banded bumble bee (Bombus terricola) (Kirby, 1837). Threats contributing to bumble bee population declines include: land-use changes, habitat loss, climate change, pathogen spillover, and pesticide use. A response to the need for action on pollinator preservation in North America has been to encourage ‘bee-friendly’ plantings. Previous studies show differences in common and at-risk bumble bee foraging; however, similar data are unavailable for Ontario. Our research question is whether there is a difference in co-occurring at-risk and common bumble bee (Bombus spp.) floral use (including nectar and pollen collection) in protected areas in southern Ontario. We hypothesize that common and at-risk species forage differently, predicting that at-risk species forage on a limited selection of host plants. We conducted a field survey of sites in southern Ontario, using observational methods to determine bumble bee foraging by species. The results of a redundancy analysis show a difference in foraging between common and at-risk bumblebee species. At-risk bumble bee species show a preference for foraging on invasive, naturalized Vicia cracca (tufted vetch). This finding raises the question of how to preserve or provide forage for at-risk bumble bees, when they show an association with an invasive species often subject to control in protected areas.
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