Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Behavioural tactics used by invasive cane toads (Rhinella marina) to exploit apiaries in Australia.

Abstract

Behavioural flexibility plays a key role in facilitating the ability of invasive species to exploit anthropogenically-created resources. In Australia, invasive cane toads (Rhinella marina) often gather around commercial beehives (apiaries), whereas native frogs do not. To document how toads use this resource, we spool-tracked cane toads in areas containing beehives and in adjacent natural habitat without beehives, conducted standardized observations of toad feeding behaviour, and ran prey-manipulation trials to compare the responses of cane toads versus native frogs to honeybees as potential prey. Toads feeding around beehives travelled shorter distances per night, and hence used different microhabitats, than did toads from nearby control sites without beehives. The toads consumed live bees from the hive entrance (rather than dead bees from the ground), often climbing on top of one another to gain access to the hive entrance. Prey manipulation trials confirm that bee movement is the critical stimulus that elicits the toads' feeding response; and in standardized trials, native frogs consumed bees less frequently than did toads. In summary, cane toads flexibly modify their movements, foraging behaviour and dietary composition to exploit the nutritional opportunities created by commercial beehives, whereas native anurans do not.