Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Honey bees and wild pollinators differ in their preference for and use of introduced floral resources.

Abstract

Introduced plants may be important foraging resources for honey bees and wild pollinators, but how often and why pollinators visit introduced plants across an entire plant community is not well understood. Understanding the importance of introduced plants for pollinators could help guide management of these plants and conservation of pollinator habitat. We assessed how floral abundance and pollinator preference influence pollinator visitation rate and diversity on 30 introduced versus 24 native plants in central New York. Honey bees visited introduced and native plants at similar rates regardless of floral abundance. In contrast, as floral abundance increased, wild pollinator visitation rate decreased more strongly for introduced plants than native plants. Introduced plants as a group and native plants as a group did not differ in bee diversity or preference, but honey bees and wild pollinators preferred different plant species. As a case study, we then focused on knapweed (Centaurea spp.), an introduced plant that was the most preferred plant by honey bees, and that beekeepers value as a late-summer foraging resource. We compared the extent to which honey bees versus wild pollinators visited knapweed relative to coflowering plants, and we quantified knapweed pollen and nectar collection by honey bees across 22 New York apiaries. Honey bees visited knapweed more frequently than coflowering plants and at a similar rate as all wild pollinators combined. All apiaries contained knapweed pollen in nectar, 86% of apiaries contained knapweed pollen in bee bread, and knapweed was sometimes a main pollen or nectar source for honey bees in late summer. Our results suggest that because of diverging responses to floral abundance and preferences for different plants, honey bees and wild pollinators differ in their use of introduced plants. Depending on the plant and its abundance, removing an introduced plant may impact honey bees more than wild pollinators.