Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Contrasting effects of exotic plant invasions and managed honeybees on plant-flower visitor interactions.

Abstract

Aim: To explore how a highly invasive plant species (Buddleja davidii Franch.), managed honeybees and flower diversity affected plant-flower visitor interactions over the whole elevational range distribution of the exotic plant. Location: Italian Alps. Methods: We selected nine pairs of sites (one invaded and one non-invaded by B. davidii) across gradients in honeybee abundance and diversity of flower resources. We observed plant-flower visitor interactions every three weeks, for a total of five surveys covering the full flowering season of B. davidii (June-August). We tested how B. davidii, honeybee abundance and flowering plant diversity affected network robustness, overlap in flower resource use of wild flower visitors with honeybees and flower visitor specialization. We also tested for an interaction between B. davidii presence and honeybee abundance, and tested whether the effects of the two variables changed among insect orders. Results: Buddleja davidii and honeybees had contrasting effects on network robustness and on several species-level metrics. Network robustness increased with increasing honeybee abundance and flower diversity. Increasing honeybee abundance generally increased specialization of lepidopterans and dipterans that tended to switch to less visited plant species, possibly in order to avoid competition. Specialization of flower visitors declined in sites invaded by B. davidii, indicating that the invasive plant attracted pollinators, which in turn also visited co-occurring species in the neighbourhood. Main conclusions: Although increasing honeybee abundance was associated with higher network stability, it also modified plant-flower visitor interactions by forcing species to shift their diet irrespective of floral diversity. The effect was particularly strong for non-bee flower visitors. The consequences of these changes in plant-flower visitor interactions for the reproductive success of flowering plants are still largely unknown.